Best Free iPad App of the Week: USA Today

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USAToday for iPad

Who doesn’t like free? And who doesn’t like great iPad apps? When the two come together it’s good stuff. With that in mind, we’d like to share our Best Free iPad App of the Week here every weekend.

This week’s pick is USA Today for iPad. This is one of the very first newspapers with an iPad edition, that has been in the iPad App Store since the day it opened back in April 2010. It may not be the weightiest of newspapers and it’s not going to replace The Washington Post (or papers of that ilk) for those who want heavy, in-depth coverage – but it is a great iPad edition with a lot of excellent features.

I reviewed it back in July of 2010 and here’s a little slice of what I had to say about it then:

This is an excellent iPad edition of a popular newspaper.  It’s the most iPad-friendly, interactive newspaper title I’ve seen so far.

And the same still holds true today.

USAToday for iPad

Here are some of its key features:

The nation’s news updated 24/7 on your iPad. Staying informed has never been this quick, easy or enjoyable.
– Read stories from USA TODAY’s News, Money, Sports, Life, Tech and Travel sections. Enlarge images, watch related videos, and share stories via email, Twitter or Facebook. Download all stories to read offline; ideal when traveling.
– Review national weather maps and get current weather conditions, up-to-the minute radar images and the five-day forecast for your current location and other locations you set as favorites.
– Get the latest sports scores for NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, college football and basketball. Stay up-to-date on the USA TODAY-ESPN Top 25 Polls for college sports.
– Stay current on airport delays and closures. Get delays information via a nationwide map or a list with specific information about each airport.
– Keep up with recent iPad apps with USA TODAY’s App Insider. Read reviews and ratings, view app screenshots, and easily open the App Store for convenient download.
– Watch the latest tech reviews and interviews from Ed Baig and Jefferson Graham in TechWatch and share via email, Twitter or Facebook.
– Check the market numbers by index and create a ‘My Stocks’ list, a personalized list that will keep you updated on how your stocks are performing. (Market data delayed up to 15 minutes.)
– Play USA TODAY’s popular crossword puzzles. Puzzles are available from the past two weeks and can be played even when offline.
– Flip through the day’s best news, sports and celebrity photos as well as Week in Travel and Week in Space images in full-screen detail. Share your favorites via email.

That first feature listed above is one of the best things about USA Today for iPad. It is one of the very few newspaper titles that gets this right on the iPad. It is genuinely updated frequently throughout every day. Just as one quick example of this, I can often take a look at the app in the early evening and see an early score in a football or basketball game, then check back in later and see details and reporting on the final result.

Some other things I really enjoy about USA Today for iPad include:

— The UI and navigation in the app are just excellent. Everything you want to get to is just a tap or two away from its front page. Its main news sections – Money, Sports, Life, Tech, and Travel – are easy to get to via the Sections popover at the top left of its front page. Navigation between and in articles follows what is a near-standard for the iPad – individual articles are read by swiping down through them, swiping left and right moves through articles. Each article has a footer showing how how many pages it has and which you are on.

USA Today for iPad

— The Tech and Sports sections, which are two of my favorite areas, are quite good. There’s even an App Insider sub-section in the Tech section – that features an iPad app each day.

— When you tap on the weather panel the popover that comes up shows more detailed information for whichever location was being shown, including a five day forecast.  Like all popovers it only requires a single tap to bring it up and another single tap anywhere on the front page to dismiss it.

Similarly, you can tap on the Scores panel (just below weather in the left pane of the front page) to see a popover with more scores detail or to choose which sport you’d like to see latest scores from.  The choices are: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NCAA Football, and NCAA Basketball.

USA Today for iPad

— Images within articles can be tapped on to show them at larger size. Videos play quickly within pages and sidebars.

USA Today for iPad

— The galleries within the app cover all of its main topics and are easy to view as slideshows.

— USA Today Snapshots provides a popover with some quick numbers and stats in News, Money, Sports, and Life – each with a poll question. It also has a Crosswords section that’s easy and fun to fill a few minutes with.

Everything about USA Today for iPad feels like a proper iPad edition. The entire time you use the app you’ll be well aware that enormous effort has been put into making this an edition that runs smoothly and well on the iPad. And it always does. It’s a pleasant surprise that this app has remained free for more than a year and a half now while other far inferior titles charge for their iPad editions.

Here’s an App Store link for USA Today for iPad.

If you’re after more great free iPad apps, be sure to check out our previous choices for Best Free iPad of the Week.

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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