First look at the new ‘The Washington Post’ app for iOS
Newly released app is the same as that released by into the Amazon app store in the fall of last year, and now is in the Apple App Store along side the Post’s ‘Classic’ apps
There is not much new developers can do with the basic news app. They take RSS feeds originating on the newspaper or magazine’s website and reformats the content for the mobile device. Since the arrival of third party apps in 2008 we have seen how little these apps have changed over time. In 2010, The New York Times launched one for the iPad and it has changed little since its launch, mainly adding content and occasionally tweaking its design.
So the new iOS app for The Washington Post cannot be expected to radically change the formula. What it can do, however, is play around with design and navigation, rethinking the way it wants to present its content.
Based on that goal, the new app from the Post, originally released for the Kindle Fire in October of last year, is a triumph. (The Post is owned, of course, by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.) The iOS app, which is a universal stand-alone app, works well on both the iPhone and iPad – with the iPad version a pleasant surprise.
“We attempted to do something revolutionary with this experience,” said Cory Haik, executive producer and senior editor, Digital. “Our goal was to attract people across the country who may not be The Post’s regular readers. And it is working.”
On the iPhone the reader is presented with the standard one column look, but with more interesting headlining options. In the stories themselves, there is not much the designer can do other than make good font choices and make sure there are good options for such things as font adjustments, night reading mode, etc. The new Post app offers most of the expected options.
On the iPad, the developer has to decide what to do with the added real estate and the choice here was to go with a two column look. This works great when the tablet is in landscape, my preferred orientation most of the time because of the iPad stand, but in portrait it looks a tad small when the iPad is turned to portrait. But this isn’t a big deal because a tap of the story you want brings up that story in its own dedicated window.
The new iOS app is simply called The Washington Post now, whereas the older iPhone and iPad apps are now called “Classic” and feature not only feeds taken from the paper’s website, but also includes the replica edition of the print newspaper. The new app was released inside the Apple App Store on July 9 and immediately updated to version 1.0.1 in order to fix a start-up crash, as well as other issues. (The developers must have freaked when they discovered the issues once the app was live.)
The app comes with a trial period lasting a month, with it currently having a single sponsor, The Lincoln Motor Company. After that, readers will be expected to pony up $9.99 per month, but that also includes a subscription to the website. Otherwise, the reader can access a limited number of stories each month, like the website, before bumping up against the paywall.
The Kindle Android version of the app has gotten pretty good reviews from readers, though early on there were plenty of complaints when Amazon pushed the app onto Kindles, to the unpleasant surprise of many. But readers who use the app give it high marks. There have been far less reviews inside iTunes, both because it is so new, and because the Post has had a Newsstand and a separate iPhone app for a while now. But early reviews are positive with only one negative review from a reader who expected access to a replica of the print paper through the app.
Here is a brief walk-though of the new app as seen on the iPad, in landscape: