Developer: Broadcastr, Inc
Price: FREE
Version: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★½
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Print media is having a fairly rough time of it these days. Newspapers are suffering, magazines are shutting down left and right, all because of digital content. It’s a shame, then, to think about how apps like SPUN: City News could end up being the final nail in the coffin. Although it’s good news (no pun intended) for the app I guess.

SPUN acts as the area’s local newspaper tucked neatly on a mobile device. It uses location services to determine the user’s city, then fills their screen with recent news items. Of course there’s a bit more to it than that. Articles are divided up into several categories including Top Stories, Arts & Entertainment, Food & Drink, and Lifestyle. Much like a physical newspaper, really. Each page is actually one side of a cube, and users can swipe left and right between them as needed. They can also swipe down to scroll through older stories to see what they’ve missed. Users can mark their favorites and leave comments as well.

Having a bunch of current local stories on hand is great in itself, but SPUN offers a bit more than that. In addition to all the information, each story is flagged with a location. Any favorites a user marks can also be set to sound off an alert if they come within a certain distance, so if someone spots an interesting item about a new restaurant they can check the handy map that pops up above the story for directions and even get a heads-up once they get close.

It’s strange though, for all of SPUN’s intuitiveness it seems to be missing a couple of obvious features. The most immediately noticeable is the inability to simply tap the top of the screen to immediately scroll back up to the top of the list. Virtually every other interactive bit of iOS media does this, so why not here? And while I’m on the subject, where’s that “pull down to refresh” feature I’ve gotten so used to? The absence of these two interface options aren’t deal breakers, but they’re certainly a glaring omission. And, of course, there are currently only four categories to flip between. No sports, no movie listings, no political section, etc.

SPUN: City News is a fairly ambitious app, and it does what it’s meant to rather well, but it’s not quite up to snuff when compared to its printed counterparts. With a few more categories and some basic interface options it could be quite the contender, though.

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