Every Giz writer is loving the NPR app, and it's obvious why: You can't question the app's sheer robustness. You can scroll through tons of content on the mainpage, look up any NPR station to livestream and even play some of the most premium content like This American Life on demand. Plus, the iPad's speaker makes for the perfect, cheap radio effect—allowing you to ditch AM receivers once and for all. But if the app fails in one place, it's that there's simply too much content presented in too many different ways. Flip through icons, use forward and back functions, scroll through lists, search by radio station to find more lists—everything is jumbled. We'd just love one simple view option for every major show. [iTunes]
It's the most robust NPR app yet—we'd just like someone to chop down the interface.
NYT Editor's Choice
If you liked the NYT app on the iPhone, know that NYT Editor's Choice evolves the experience of a newspaper on a mobile screen in a tasteful, natural manner. Toggle between newspaper-style front pages five categories: News, Business, Technology, Opinion and Features. View it all in portrait or landscape mode while flicking smoothly from one page to another—it looks great either way. But the perfect, subtle detail on such a large screen? Click on a story and you'll cross-dissolve to the full article. You can even email articles—the only thing it's missing is the option to search. [iTunes]
If you like the NYT, it's a free must-have without that obtrusive of advertising.
For those of you who haven't heard of Instapaper, it's a great way to save webpages for reading on the go when you might not have internet access. On the 3G-less iPad, Instapaper makes as much sense as ever. You simply bookmark the pages you'd like to read later in your computer's browser, then the $5 app (iPhone version included) downloads these pages for later viewing. Other than large images getting shrunk to more manageable sizes (for resource reasons, we're sure), the entire experience translated wonderfully to the iPad no matter which site we threw at it, allowing us to browse articles easily, swap their fonts and archive the texts for the future. You're also just a button press away from the original, fully-formatted article, should you want to check it out in a browser.
$5 turns webpages into eBooks for all of your iDevices.
Popular Science +
One of the biggest promises of the iPad is to save the magazine industry. PopSci's app offers a digital version of their famous magazine. Rather than flicking from left to right through pages, you flick through whole articles in this manner. To actually read content, you scroll down the page (with more flicking). This left right up down pattern is odd at first, but you'll adjust after about a minute—thanks largely to the pretty pictures and overall speediness of the interface. My main qualm is simply that in the April 2010 issue (the only one available at this time), text is always presented in the same skinny column layout (in landscape and portrait). We want to keep the magazine style around for its artistic layouts, and tablets are a place to take those layouts to new heights. $5 with one free issue included. [iTunes]
Not the absolute endgame for magazines on tablets, but it's a usable start.
Time's app sets another great example of how to properly display print media on the iPad. It really does feel like flipping through a magazine. When you launch the app you're ushered to the cover where you can immediately start swiping pages to the conveniently laid out table of contents or launch the unobtrusive dashboard to scan articles and jump to a desired section. Articles are crisply depicted without compromise and the text is rich, satisfying, and readable. Time has also included an embedded browser for Time.com, where you can scan the top stories of the day, or catch up on relevant posts in a desired category. Everything is a very seamless experience and a wonderful step in the right direction. A few things like bookmarking and some slightly less fickle touch controls would be nice, but they hardly hamper the overall experience. [iTunes]
Excellent overall presentation and intuitive navigation, though is it worth $5/issue?
NetNewsWire for iPad
If you use an RSS reader on the Mac, you know NetNewsWire is the best tool for that job. But the $10 iPad version fell short of my expectations. It handled my countless subscriptions smoothly enough—no small feat—but actually browsing the content was cumbersome, largely because the app puts all navigational buttons at the top of the screen (which makes no sense when you actually hold the iPad). Such design elements may seem trivial, but as soon as you want to casually skim your feed, you'll realize that the interface is constantly fighting you. You can share links to places like Twitter, but beyond that, it's just a $10 means to clunkily experience RSS. [iTunes]
Performance is decent, but navigation needs work—especially with its premium app price.
Since most of you probably won't fork over $3.99 a week to gain full reign of WSJ's bowels we kept it simple and evaluated this app in its bare bones form, that is to say, the hobomodo version. After reviewing some exceptional news apps like NPR and AP—that do a great job in not only displaying content, but presenting it creatively—the WSJ app feels insanely lame. The development team seems to have literally just copied the layout template from the WSJ printing press and converted that into 1s and 0s, which—for future reference to all publishers—does not work well on the iPad. The front page feels cut in half with leads and blurbs crammed in a tight space, killing any aesthetic that's present on the paper version. Streaming video present in place of some photos is poorly compressed and looks awful compared to what Vimeo and YouTube can do elsewhere on the device. Navigating from section to section is awkward and frustrating. Swiping side to side flips pages within a section while swiping up and down changes section to section. A few of my more careless swipes sent me jumping to a place I had no desire to be, requiring patient renavigating to get back to the page I was skimming. Thankfully, a ‘Sections' tab exists in the lower right corner to help you navigate to specific areas, but I found this slow to load more often than not. This is an irksome, uninspired, and clunky experience. You're much better off getting NPR, NY Times, or an RSS Reader. [iTunes]
Boring, frustrating, awkward. Avoid unless you're all about serious business.