Newsweek is one of the latest well-know, mainstream magazines to hit the iPad, with its Newsweek for iPad app. If you’d like the very short version of this review, it would be something along the lines of …
It’s crap – don’t waste your time.
If you’d like a little detail on why I say that, by all means read on …
Let’s start with what’s to like about Newsweek for iPad, because it’s quite a short list and we’ll be done with it quickly. The content is good, and they’ve chosen a much nicer pricing model than many other big-name titles that have thus far come to the iPad. The app itself is free and contains a free mini-issue: 15 pages of photos and political cartoons covering the Obama presidency to date. You can purchase current, future, and back issues for $2.99 a pop, a 50% discount off their newsstand cover price.
The $2.99 per issue price is not great, but it’s well under the $4.99 charged by several other high profile titles. Unfortunately, once I’d bought and spent time with the June 7 issue, I found that it’s about $2.99 more than an issue is worth.
This is one of the app’s featured screens. Well, perhaps not intentionally – but it is one you see continually in the app. Every time I moved from one page to another – going forward or even back! – I saw this for a good second or two, or sometimes more. If this slow loading occurred once in a while it would be more tolerable, but it happens constantly. I have not seen anything close to this slowness in any other iPad magazine or eBook title.
And this last screenshot (above) is pretty much the app’s entire UI. A home button, thumbnails of pages to jump to them, and the main page content. Hopefully you will notice that the text on the page is not very nicely sized either.
Others’ mileage may well vary, but I find the text in default view too small for comfortable reading. So I need to pinch and zoom and scroll around far more than is desirable – and far, far more than I’ve had to do in any similar app.
In terms of being a ‘digital magazine’ here are a few other points to consider:
— There are no interactive elements – none.
— There’s also zero multimedia content. No audio, no video, no animations.
— There are no settings or preferences for the app at all.
— No ability to search, no table of contents.
More than anything, using this app feels like working with a mediocre to bad PDF viewer. It’s a shame, because it does not begin to do justice to Newsweek’s good content. It doesn’t feel like a 1.0 version – it feels like a ‘we mailed it in’ issue, with no thought given at all to how to embrace what the iPad can allow magazines to do.
In order to be worth $2.99 an issue the app doesn’t need an update, it needs a complete overhaul. Right now it is the poster child for how not to do a digital magazine.
You can find Newsweek for iPad in the App Store now; the app itself is free and each issue costs $2.99.
*** This app was independently purchased by the post author in the iPad App Store. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the "About" page.