My hometown’s leading newspaper launched a new iPad app yesterday. It’s called Today’s Paper from The Austin American-Statesman and it’s beyond terrible. It’s not just a terrible iPad newspaper app, it’s an embarrassing app to even have published in the App Store. I’m amazed any sensible publisher has put their name on this.
I should’ve realized how useless this ‘paper’ was when attempting to take a look at the app when it launched yesterday. That in itself was a farcically bad experience. It went something like this:
— I run an iPad site, do iPad app reviews, and especially enjoy iPad newspaper and magazine editions. So I was excited to see a new iPad app from Austin’s leading newspaper. I’m not a current print or online Statesman subscriber but I was a very keen potential iPad subscriber.
— I installed the app and immediately found that I could not so much as tap to view a single article before hitting a roadblock. To view anything at all in the app you have to sign in as an existing subscriber or take on a new subscription. I’ve been covering iPad newspaper and magazine apps for over two years now and I cannot recall a single other title that refuses to show any content at all before demanding your money. Great start, and it only gets (much) worse from there.
— I knew I couldn’t sign in so I hit the Subscribe button and chose the only available option – the $9.99 per month subscription. I tried this several times and got a variety of error messages that all seemed to imply it was just not possible to buy anything on the iPad App Store. Just for laughs, I went to the App Store, installed an iPad magazine, and bought an issue of it with zero errors or problems.
— I tried to subscribe again and appeared to succeed – I got the normal prompts to confirm my purchase and a message saying I was now subscribed. But that got me no farther – as soon as I tried to tap on an article I was greeted with the now familiar Unauthorized screen. This newspaper is better protected than most embassy buildings. By this time I had received an iTunes invoice and iTunes confirmation of my subscription, but the app still refused to let me view anything. I tried quitting the app and reopening it several times – to no avail.
— Finally after deleting the app and reinstalling it (twice) I was able to actually view the newspaper. At this point you might think things are getting better. Nope. After all that hassle what I got to see was an ‘iPad edition’ that looks like it was designed by a 10 year old. And that’s an insult to any 10 year old who has even an ounce of design sense or has ever spent 5 minutes using an iPad.
— The app’s UI is as confusing as it is ugly. It feels like all the very worst that you hear about the Microsoft Surface RT tablet and it’s confusing mix of mobile and desktop interfaces. Some parts of this app are obviously just taken from the Statesman website and thrown into this app with zero attention to what an iPad app is.
— Nothing looks even close to being sized for the iPad, much less optimized for the device. Here are a couple of looks at what I see when I tap to view an individual article:
— The article view you get is not consistent except in one way – it doesn’t fit the page and it looks stupid.
— Here’s what you see when you tap to view today’s issue. This one makes me wonder whether anyone at the Statesman even looked at this stuff.
— The sections pulldown is another place where the hideously ugly design of this app stands out:
— The app also fails to ever remember where you left off when you switch away from it and return – and then greets you with a ‘loading’ page for a number of seconds.
It’s almost comical how bad this app is. My subscription has been canceled already. I really cannot imagine why anyone would pay $9.99/month for this – or anything at all for this joke of an iPad edition.
I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever seen a worse iPad newspaper. I may have, but nothing springs to mind after spending some time with Today’s Paper from The Austin American-Statesman.
If you have some morbid fascination with terrible iPad newspaper apps or you need an example of how not to do an iPad edition, you may want to give his one a look – here’s an App Store link for it.