• iOS App Review - CNN

    America's original twenty four hour news network has an iPad app, which isn't all that surprising. After all, almost every respectable media organisation has, in some form, released an app for Apple's mobile platform. And while it has been available on the App Store for some time now, it is the thoroughly enjoyable user experience which will surprise users of the official CNN app.

    CNN features a collection of recent news and video to hit CNN.com, stripping away the archive and search which can be found on their ‘full’ website. A few hundred articles are displayed (there are no settings inside the app to change the number of articles shown) with their accompanying photograph upon opening CNN. The full list can be broken down into one of twelve news categories by tapping in the top left corner and choosing one. Above that sits a view panel where articles can be displayed as a text list or photo slideshow – the latter is perfect for seeing what's happening in news from a distance.

    ‘Most commented’ articles are featured prominently on this main screen, along with video stories and some embedded advertising. Ads also appear inside the articles themselves though they are always relegated to the right hand side of the window and never interrupt articles. Finally, comments can be brought up by tapping near the bottom of the right hand side, while a more visible speech bubble encourages readers to add their own thoughts.

    It's a good thing comments are hidden from view since (especially on news sites) they often contribute little to the overall discussion but it's nice to see CNN has added the option for users anyway. It can be annoying seeing the main body of text share screen real estate equally with ads and comment boxes, but at least viewing is undisturbed on the left hand side. Videos sometimes force full screen ads before content loads, but these can be skipped and once shown, video plays quickly and smoothly as expected.

    The app lacks some of the features from its fully featured website but there's enough news and information to keep users reading for at least an hour or two. CNN shouldn't read as a newspaper though. Like its well known TV counterpart, it is designed to be picked up at any time and accessed with ease. The app updates at least once an hour with an audio recording of the headlines to accompany each refresh, plus the ability to save articles (like an internal Instapaper) for later reading. CNN's app doesn't carry a great deal of ‘longform’ and seriously insightful commentary but it scores huge points in the usability department thanks to its Windows Phone 7-like tile design and a large library of up-to-the-minute news.

    Version reviewed: 1.0.4
    Price: Free
    Developer: CNN Interactive Group, Inc.
    Size: 4.5MB
    App Store

    Editor's note: While a developer preview version of iOS was used to take screenshots of this application, all testing and reviewing was conducted on an iPad running the current public release version 4.3.3.
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