The Times of London for iPad is the latest app for a big-name newspaper to hit the iPad App Store. It’s also another high-profile title that has chosen to go with a very hefty price for its iPad edition – &16.99 for each 28 days worth of issues, with the Sunday Times not included.
Is it worth over $200 a year for its iPad edition? Pumped full of custom-designed, take maximum advantage of this powerful new medium goodness? No, not even close …
The initial download package for the app itself is just 3.4MB – and that’s because it installs with no issues downloaded. When I installed it last night it had issues available for 5/28 through to June 5. Each one takes a minute or so to download and I really don’t see why the install doesn’t at least load the current day to get you started.
Does It Feel Like a Custom iPad Edition?
Nope. Far from it. It’s not quite as bad as Newsweek for iPad – which is basically a poorly designed PDF viewer – but it’s far away from being a title that exploits the possibilities of an iPad edition. It feels flat and static right from the home page – just as a simple, quick example it has no movement on its front page at all (no rotating feature content as USA Today for the iPad does or anything similar).
The page shown above – with the EasyJet article – is the closest you’ll get to animation, a static drawing.
Throughout the app, there is very, very little multimedia content. I think I spotted around a half dozen videos in browsing two days’ editions – and one of them had completely screwed up sound. I’ve found zero interactive animations or audio files.
Even in places where it seems very easy to throw in some interaction, there is none. For instance, on its weather pages there is no way to tell it your location and see local conditions; no ability to choose to see different sorts of views, no choices to make at all. Just a flat and fairly boring / outdated looking set of pages.
It has ads – relatively few in the two issues I looked at – but these are also pretty lame. On an IBM ad with a URL in it, the link is not live.
Does It Follow Good iPad Design Standards?
When an article spans multiple screens, you cannot scroll down to read through it – you can only swipe left and right, which is non-standard.
There is no home button or table of contents.
The controls remain constantly visible in a rather ugly bottom bar – no tap the page to bring them up and hide them. The controls also feature Go Back button as well as a Rewind to Beginning sort of button – in playing with them, I cannot see any difference between the two.
It doesn’t remember where you were when you exited the app.
Is It Social?
Not at all.
There is not a single ‘sharing’ element within the app at all. No share by email or via any social networks. No ability to comment on articles or email authors.
No search. No ability to bookmark pages.
Is It Stable?
You may have guessed the answer by now. No it’s not. Within my first half hour of using the app, I had two crashes back to the home screen. On both occasions, when I went back into the app it had ‘forgotten’ which issues I had downloaded and I had to download them again to see any content.
It is sometimes poor in its response – requiring multiple taps to make a known action happen on the page or even with control buttons.
Any Saving Graces?
Yes. It’s a quality newspaper – so the content is good. The photos are very good.
The breadth of its coverage is good.
The Sports section is especially strong.
Is It Worth Its Price of Admission?
As stated at the outset, No. No way.
I just don’t see who is willing to pay $200 a year for a single source of news on the iPad. And even if there are enough people out there willing to pay anything like that price for an iPad edition, they should definitely be demanding a real iPad version for their money. The Times may have a good argument for its cover and subscription prices in print form – but they’ve got none as far as I can see in this new digital form.
Nothing that says ‘we’re a step ahead’ or that they’re able to deliver this content in new and exciting ways to embrace the medium and back up their high price demands.
You can find The Times of London in the App Store now, priced at $16.99 for each 28 days worth of issues – and you have to fork out for your first 28 days to get the app.
*** 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.