• iPad App Reviews - Reeder, The New York Times

    This week we look at two different ways to read news on the iPad. Reeder is an RSS client pulling in content from a wide variety of sources, while The New York Times optimises the reading experience of just one source.


    Reading on the iPad has taken a decidedly different turn to that on the iPhone. On the smaller and more cramped screen space of the iPhone, a good RSS reader is seen as a necessity for users with a large number of regularly read websites. Meanwhile, on the iPad, the (almost) ten inch screen allows for far more powerful and smoother web browsing. Given the speed of browsing websites on Apple's tablet, the need for an RSS app could reasonably be seen as less relevant. So, for Silvio Rizzi's iPad RSS client to appeal to the same people who bought his iPhone app months ago, an entirely different reading experience needs to be offered. Thankfully, that's exactly what Reeder gives users.

    Just like the iPhone app, Reeder syncs exclusively with Google Reader to pull in RSS content, and is required to start using the client. The most significant benefit to that limited compatibility is that with just one login, all of the feeds, notes, unread items, shared and starred articles are downloaded automatically - better still, content stays in sync between Reeder on the iPhone and iPad and Google Reader on the web (something that Twitter disappointingly lacks). Essentially, there are no surprises when it comes to functionality, aside from a noticeable speed bump for syncing. Everything works as expected.

    Where Reeder really innovates is in user experience. There were RSS clients for the iPhone, then there was Reeder. The same applies to the iPad app. Beautiful controls, crisp typography and a focus on minimalist user interface make it leaps and bounds better than the web interface (even with Helvetireader) and far more practical than Reeder's iPhone cousin. The experience is so radically different to reading articles in their natural state using Safari that those who aren't used to Reeder in any form may find it difficult to use at first, but most of these concerns can be obliterated with just a few minutes of use. This stems mostly from the app's use of "hidden gestures" (similar to Apple's iWork apps) that improve usability.

    As a widely anticipated release for the iPad, Reeder's abnormally long approval waiting time was worrying for fans of the app, possibly due to the extensive use of the pinch-to-zoom feature that Apple boasts in the iPad's Photos app. Whether this should be allowed for third-party apps or not doesn't matter, because these sorts of enhancements are part of what make Reeder such an excellent RSS reader for the iPad. In a hotly contested market on the App Store (Pulse and NewsRack spring to mind with more clients on their way in the coming months), Reeder tops the rest again.

    Version reviewed: 1.0
    Price: $5.99
    Developer: Silvio Rizzi
    Designed for: iPad (iPhone app available separately)
    Compatibility: iPhone OS running 3.2 or later
    Size: 2.1MB
    Category: News
    App Store

    The New York Times

    On the other end of the reading spectrum is The New York Times, which is the iconic newspaper publisher's first foray into the App Store on the iPad. There are two entirely different approaches one can take as a distributer when it comes to publishing content on the iPad. The first is to go behind the 'paywall' as Rupert Murdoch has done with The Wall Street Journal in the United States and here with The Australian. The second option, often seen as more favourable for users, is to offer a free but ad-supported newspaper app.

    The New York Times has taken the second option, but it's crippled even more by limiting content to what they call "Editor's Choice" articles. Perhaps it's because the distributers haven't settled on an appropriate price or time to introduce paid access, or perhaps they genuinely want to keep as much news free on the iPad as possible (after all, web content is easily accessible with a quick trip to Safari + nytimes.com) but there's significantly less news available using the iPad app when compared to the free for all and also ad-supported website or even the iPhone app, let alone the physical newspaper itself.

    On the bright side, The New York Times is rather nicely designed and is very responsive to touch commands, as users have come to expect. It looks more like a newspaper than the website or iPhone app does, not just because of the physical size and shape of the iPad but because of the clean white canvas that is used well to display text, images and videos. There's no doubt that it's a slick production, but then again, it is surely easier to design an app that only displays a few dozen articles at any given time. If the app was to more closely resemble the amount of news so readily available on the website, the design would need to change to suit this.

    Overall, The New York Times is not a bad app - there are some truly brilliant reports and articles in the app that make the app more than worthy of a free download. It could just be so much better. Having seen some wonderful news reading options on the iPad and having enjoyed time spent with this app already, I am more than willing to pay for a subscription through in-app purchases on the iTunes Store. If only that option was available.

    Version reviewed: 1.0.1
    Price: Free
    Developer: The New York Times Company
    Designed for: iPad (iPhone app available separately)
    Compatibility: iPhone OS running 3.2 or later
    Size: 1.0MB
    Category: News
    App Store
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