Developer: CNN
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★½☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★½
Features Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Screen shot 2009-10-10 at 13.35.18

IMG_0028One of CNN’s many slogans is “Be The First To Know” (alright – that is their Arabic newsletter’s slogan). Couple this with an iPhone that recently received a push revolution, and that’s quite a recipe for an application that gives you up-to-date news. The twin pillars of the this application are push notifications and video viewing. Let’s start with the former.

Push is a fairly new phenomenon to the iPhone. Outlined in an earlier article of mine, it “pushes” information to you as it happens (extract below). Arguably above all other sections of the App Store, the News category was the biggest winner of Apple’s Push Notification Service (APNS). News as it happens, as it breaks – it’s on your phone and you’re kept up to date. CNN have incorporated this feature into their latest application and it improves the application greatly. The most push messages that we’ve received in a day so far is two (Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize and NASA crash-landing on the moon, if you want to know), so you’re battery will thank you too.

What are Push Notifications?
In the olden days, for instance, whenever 148 was the maximum amount of applications that you could install, if you wanted information you had to go to it. Be it the latest news or the latest tweets, the only way that you’d find out about it is if you went to the information source – a Twitter application for tweets; or a news website for breaking news. Push notifications reverses this role and the information is brought to you. You’re updated in real time about what is happening, who is tweeting you, and why the Zune is not as good as the iPod (okay, maybe not the last one). Push is practically limitless, and developers are keen to get ahead of the game.

The latter is video viewing, and this is a major step forward to what all relevant iPhone applications should do. The iPhone has been blessed with 3G and cursed with carriers. 3G is fast enough to stream video at an acceptable frame rate from the internet onto the phone with no Wi-Fi connection. This means that whether you’re on the bus, train or even walking – if there’s a 3G connection you can have video in your pocket. Great! Right? Well.. carriers aren’t too fond of that, and for understandable reasons. Data infrastructure is expensive. But even in so called “unlimited” data packages, many carriers are against 3G video viewing due to the extensive amount of data that it uses (there have even been a few applications that have been unable to incorporate video viewing via 3G because of carrier disapproval). We’re glad to report that the CNN app allows 3G video viewing straight out of the box, including live video. It takes a while to buffer and stutters occasionally, but that’s to be expected when you’re streaming both audio and video simultaneously.

Live video is one of many features that set the CNN application above its competition

Live video is one of many features that set the CNN application above its competition

Just as it looks like it can’t get any better, you turn your iPhone into landscape mode and you’re browsing news in cover flow. Latest pictures with a summary underneath are presented identically like the iPod application, and tapping on one will load a summary article and the option to read the full article. Among other features, there is a “My CNN” tab allowing you to follow local news and weather (US only) and an iReport tab allowing you to report news. Lastly, you can save (mail, tweet, text message also) articles for offline viewing.

There are one or two flaws. Even though the application is in Version 1.0, it crashes more often than we’d have expected and there is some notable lag whenever loading new articles or switching to cover flow mode. Even on our 3G iPhone, scrolling caused some sluggishness. It’s also lacking a Business news section, which greatly detracts from what is a very impressive application.

Despite these minor flaws, CNN Mobile has greatly impressed us. Every iPhone should have it installed.

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