I’m going to level with you here: I get most of my news from Facebook and Twitter. That’s not to say I don’t use legitiment news sources; I follow CNN, Breaking News, NY Post and USA Today, and will visit BBC News when I’m fed up with all of those. What I’m saying is I don’t use apps or regularly visit websites to read the news. However, when I’m using my iPad, my news source of choice is the beautifully redesigned USA Today for iPad app.
Let’s find out more after the break.
USA Today is an news outfit based in, you guessed it, the USA. They’ve done print for quite some time and I started reading them a few years ago when I picked up their paper in a hotel lobby. I enjoyed it and it’s been a regular news source for me ever since. It was also the first news app I bought when I got my iPad. While I wasn’t all that impressed with the first iteration, the redesign is pretty great.
Looking at the new app, I saw that the developers decided to use as much screen space as they possibly could for the actual content. While there are top and side bars, the space they use up is both minimal and useful. In the main content area, you get breaking news and the day’s top stories. As you see above, each story is accompanied with a photo, the time updated/published, the headline and a small blurb. There is also an alternate layout (using the icons in the bottom right) that will remove the blurb.
On the bottom of the screen there is also the current weather info for your location. To view more stories, you can swipe to the left or right, which I always feel is a nice touch (no pun intended).
Across the top you will see each of the news sections USA Today has to offer: News, Sports, Life, Money, Tech, Travel and Opinion. News is the section you see when you open the app. Each of the other sections functions the same as News, with only the accent colors and sidebar options changing. There is also a Multimedia section that seems to be specially made for the iPad. This section functions a little differently from the other sections.
The Multimedia section is broken up into two area: Pictures and Videos. Those areas can then be organized by either date or section (News, Sports, etc). Selecting a set of photos will bring you to a nice photo carousel that you can easily scroll through, complete with captions. The videos will simply bring up an in-app video player.
I think this is a really nice value added section that USA Today created for the app; it (along with other features like swipe to view more stories) shows that they really had iPad users in mind.
Each section also comes complete with some extra items listed in the left sidebar. While there are quite a few, the notable ones are Weather, Scores, Polls and Games.
The Weather area is probably the most in-depth “extra” area, giving you a several day forecast and weather map. You can add multiple cities manually or by current location, view a Radar or Satellite map, view the 10 Day or Hourly forecast, and get weather alerts for the area. This is actually a really nifty section that looks fantastic and is incredibly informative.
The other area I really like is Sports Scores, which, as the name implies, allows you to get scores across all of the major sports. I think this is a really nice looking, organized area. If I could make one request, it’s that I’d like to set certain teams as favorites so that I can easily check their scores.
Aside from the news sections and auxiliary areas, the app allows you to share and save articles to read later. A really nice touch of the app is that the articles are downloaded upon loading the app so they are available for offline reading. You also have the opportunity to favorite articles, which are then saved in an area under Settings.
When you are viewing a single saved article, you can easily scroll through all of your saved articles, which is a nice touch. As will most apps now, you can also share the article via Facebook, Twitter and Email.
Like I said at the beginning, I don’t use a whole lot of news apps; I usually just get headlines from Twitter, Facebook and the occasional website visit. Because of that, I don’t expect too much from news apps. With that, I think the USA Today for iPad app is fantastic. It’s beautifully designed, easy to use and and has some nice features. Getting stories and extra information like weather and scores couldn’t be easier, and there are a few flourishes of personalization as well. I would really like to see some more personalization added, specially when it comes to sports teams. The ability to easily check the scores for “my teams” would be a big plus. I think there is also a good opportunity with the favoriting articles to have a recommended articles section, but that’s really more of a cherry on top of what is a fantastic app.