App Review: News Addict for iPhone
By now, most major news organizations have developed their own iPhone apps to allow their readers and viewers better access to their content.But there’s still one problem: Most news junkies don’t just stick with one news source; they like to play the field a bit. So when you have a limited amount of real estate available for apps on your iPhone, couldn’t there be an easy way to get your multiple-source news fix with just one button instead of 20? Enter: News Addict.
The News Addict app was introduced this past July as a way to consolidate almost two dozen major news outlets into one easy-to-read, spacious application. Though the developers over at TapMode initially had some trouble getting News Addict approved (they eventually gave in to Apple by relisting as for 17-plus audiences, because of the “open access” to the Internet), the application started out with about 20 publications–a fair mix of broadcast, online, and print sources. It has since grown to include 41 news sites, and, according to TapMode’s blog, another version is on its way.
Home Screen (“News Panel”)
Aptly referred to as the “news panel,” this is hands down the most attractive feature of the app. When first accessing News Addict, you’re greeted with a grid of buttons for all 41 news sites, arranged in no specific order (so it seems). Depending on what type of publication it is, the button for each news site is designed to reflect its medium. The button for Yahoo!News is designed to look like a web browser, Time magazine to look like a magazine, The Washington Post a newspaper, Fox News a television, and so on and so forth. It’s a simple idea, but one that brings a lot of character to an app that could easily be drab and not very visually appealing–it is news, after all.
The design here may be a winner, but one of the biggest things News Addict lacks is here on the home page: no ability to rearrange, delete or edit the placement of the news site buttons. Many users are going to be downloading this app for access to half, if not just a few of these news sites. So without the feature of being able to edit which news sites stay and which get moved around, there’s a lot of unnecessary scrolling and jumping around to find the few news sites you’re looking for. Fortunately, TapMode says they’re working on updating the app to include this feature in the next version, set to come out who-knows-when, since that was back in July.
Once you make your way into a selected site, you’re greeted with…a hidden toolbar. Worry not, this is actually a great thing. With the toolbar that normally graces the bottom of the screen hidden, this allows for a full-browsing experience while reading your news of the day. This comes in extra handy when you don’t have to worry about accidentally bumping a button on a toolbar and losing your place in an invigorating story about the conflict in the Middle East or a boy who may be lost in a UFO-shaped balloon.
However, the biggest frustration from the app also comes in this handy little hidden toolbar. To show the toolbar, you touch the small, black tab at the bottom right corner of the screen. And therein lies the problem: The tab is small. Impossibly small. After a few weeks of daily use of this app, I still haven’t managed to open up the toolbar with one try by touching this tab tucked in the bottom corner. The tab clearly was designed for the thumb of a child (even though the app was listed for users 17 and up), and it’s undoubtedly the worst feature of the entire application.
The good news is the toolbar isn’t completely necessary much of the time. To go back a page, you merely touch the lower left corner of the screen, and you can do this multiple times to go back to the news panel. The toolbar can also stay stagnant on the page, should you choose so in the “Tools” menu button located on the toolbar.
Do you see what we see? Yes, that’s “Tilt Scrolling” in the photo above, and it means just what you think. We already deemed the home screen the most attractive feature of the app, so this comes in a very close second place. Similar to features seen on other apps like Instapaper, the tilt scrolling option gives you the option to scroll by tilting your iPhone back and forth. It’s a great feature for commuters or anyone without a third arm, providing one-handed reading experience. I was a bit skeptic at first, figuring the scrolling would be abnormally slow or fast, but no matter how low I “dipped” my iPhone to move down, the scrolling stayed at a reasonable, steady pace. Once I leveled my iPhone (and by that, I mean completely parallel to my eyes), it slowed to a stop so I could continue reading. It’s a fantastic feature that really takes the audience for this app into consideration, as far as their needs and wants goes. A possible suggestion to make this feature even better would be to simply add the “Tilt Scrolling: On/Off” button directly to the toolbar. The Tilt Scrolling feature is fantastic for reading through a longer news article, but not all that necessary when scrolling through the app itself.
I was concerned going into this app that none of the text in the sites would be big enough or that some would be cut off or butt up against the edge of the screen, like how it often does with a regular website in Safari. The good news here is that the text stays consistent throughout most of the sites. The size is reasonable–and can be adjusted–and there’s no need for zooming or moving the text around. Everything is customized to fall within the iPhone screen, and you can also read in portrait or landscape mode, a must-have feature for this type of app. Job well done.
As for the publications themselves, there’s a healthy mix of news interests to be found in this app. We have several localized newspapers (The Seattle Times, Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune), some mostly political newspapers and newsmagazines (The Washington Post, Newsweek), major national/world news coverage publications (The New York Times, CNN, Associated Press), and then some slightly off-kilter choices for more specialized interests (ESPN, The Huffington Post, Yahoo!News, GoogleNews). Many of the sites included here have iPhone apps of their own, and those that do include links to their apps and their full websites in News Addict.
Recap & Conclusion
Price: $0.99 (on sale!)
Released: July 2009
Average iTunes review rating: 3/5
Our grade: A-
+ Abundant number of news sites, good variety
– Lack of ability to edit, delete, rearrange specific news sites
+ Tilt scrolling good for one-handed reading
– Hidden toolbar tab impossible to use
+ Full screen reading experience
+ Reasonably-sized text
Overall, if you’re a news junkie like I am, this is definitely a great investment. Instead of piling on a dozen or so applications into your iPhone’s home screen, this consolidates all of them into one, easily navigable (for the most part) app. At $0.99, it’s a pretty great bargain, as well, considering you’re getting access to 41 sites, and CNN’s app alone is $1.99.