Ever since USA
Today first rolled off the presses nearly 30 years ago, critics
have derided the Gannett-owned paper as a shallow and superficial
publication whose coverage lacked depth, and whose graphics-laden
pages merely pandered to a TV-sodden audience conditioned to have
the shortest of short-attention spans. Maybe so, but the format
fits the iPhone and iPod touch perfectly.
See the USA the iPhone Way: The mobile app for USA Today shows
you the day’s headlines, including stories from several different
sections such as Life, News, Money, and Sports. I don’t mean that
as a knock on the free USA Today app or the iPhone. News in
graphically appealing, easy-to-read, easy-to-navigate and
digestible bites, with just the facts, then USA Today’s content
meshes well with a handheld platform like the iPhone.
The New York Times shows the other form works, too. Anything
that appears in the print or online edition of the Times, you can
read on your handheld, even without a Wi-Fi or 3G connection. But
what’s the knock on the NYTimes app? It’s slow. Very slow. Downloading
all of that meaty content onto your little iPhone takes time. And
the ads on the Times app tend to be obtrusive.
USA Today for the iPhone is fast. Very fast. The app is
graphically pleasing, and makes reading the day’s top stories easy
and pleasurable. You can also view the day’s top pictures in
landscape format. The weather feature–USA Today would be nothing
without its weather page–is excellent. Although the app’s default
weather setting is New York City, you can adjust the preferences to
make it your current location. And the app has a frivolous but fun
snapshot poll feature that displays instant results nationally, as
well as from your city and state.
But USA Today makes other trade-offs. Yes, you get that day’s
news from USA Today. It doesn’t archive stories very well and–in
some places–doesn’t update very well. The app lets you choose a
default section from among several subject areas to appear under a
main header–“politics” and “national,” for example, under “News”;
“people,” “television,” and “books,” under “Life.” I noticed that
some of the stories under several featured sections were two or
three days old. But the headline news–the paper’s
bread-and-butter–is always up to date.
My other criticisms of the USA Today app amount to minor quibble
or two. Turns out, the app doesn’t include all of the daily paper’s
content. The former editorial writer in me laments the absence of
USA Today’s short house editorials and rebuttal commentary. The
navigation bar at the top of the screen, which takes you to Life,
Tech and Travel sections, is sticky and often non-responsive. And,
alas, there is no way to adjust the display type size.
As media outlets go, USA Today will never really compete with a
New York Times. But as far as apps are concerned, USA Today is a
Note: This link takes you to the vendor’s site. From
there, you can follow the link to the iTunes App Store, where you
can download the latest version of the software.