“The App Store has come a long way over the last 12 months and now forms a major part of the way we deliver content to our mobile audience, whose expectations are, rightly, rising” writes Jonathon Moore, who first introduced The Guardian application in December 2009. “We can’t stand still. With the new app we’ll be launching more frequent updates, offering a broader range of content and bringing you a better experience.” The new Guardian app is now available to download from the iTunes App Store for free in the US, ad-supported. What’s new? From automatic updates to video playback over 3G, a new front-end design to a new back-end search, the list is extensive, so here’s a summary rundown along with some personal screenshots and thoughts.
Live updating is the big one for me, particularly given how fast the flow of news is today. An article can be outdated five seconds after it is published, but live updating changes all of this. As soon as new information is available, the Guardian team send updates live to the app, meaning you can be in-the-know immediately. For example, as I write this article there are ongoing riots in Egypt, protestors demanding that President Mubarak relieves himself of his position. Three live updates have already occurred in the past half hour and show no signs of slowing, providing up-to-date, relevant information on the situation at hand.
The new app also includes Guardian video, an omission in the previous app that left it trailing behind its 21st century competitors. Now, video is available on-demand and works over both Wi-Fi and 3G, the quality of which in the latter is respectable, albeit not spectacular. For soccer fans, the app now offers free goal alerts (specific teams and matches) for “the main UK leagues and European competitions” – meaning even if you’re out and about, unable to watch the match, you’ll be notified of goals as soon as they happen. No more manual checking required.
There’re a few structural design changes to be found too, ensuring new features like video are integrated correctly. Gone are the old “Audio” and “Galleries” tabs, both have been replaced with a new “Multimedia carousel” to encompass all forms of multimedia in one section. The search is improved significantly, allowing you to search for content in every seam of the site. And to top it all off, landscape mode is now a go-ahead.
UK users can get all of these benefits on a slightly different pricing model. There are no ads in the UK version, instead the Guardian have implemented a subscription-based model: £2.99 for 6 months unlimited access, £3.99 for 12 months (as opposed to the initial £2.39 under the old app). To give users a chance to switch over, the Guardian are continuing access of the old app for a further six months, meaning there’s plenty of time to adjust to the change. Why the differentiation between US and UK markets? Jonathon Moore writes “we aim to increase our reach [in the US] (only 8% of downloads to date have come from this huge audience), we’ve taken the decision to integrate advertising and offer the new app as a free download.”
Available now, see our screenshots for a pictorial summary of what you can expect. You can read a review of The Guardian (original version) here.
Author’s note: on my iPhone 3G, I found the application concerningly slow to run. Let us know if you experience the same problems