Given its name, it’s not surprising that ABC News for iPad provides easy access to ABC News content and related video clips from programs such as 20/20 and Good Morning America, all from the comfort of your iPad. What may be surprising, though, is how gimmicky this free app from ABC Digital turns out to be.
ABC News for iPad tries to distinguish itself from other news apps with its unique presentation. The main screen displays a smattering of top stories wrapped around an on-screen globe. If you don’t see something that interests you, a brisk swipe of your finger will spin the globe to bring more thumbnails into view. The approach is eye-catching and certainly novel, but it won’t take you long to realize why this hasn’t been done before—it’s an incredibly inefficient use of screen real estate with no real purpose beyond providing some eye candy.
While the handful of thumbnails that fit within the globe are scrunched into the center of the screen, great swaths of your huge, beautiful iPad display lie fallow and useless. And though you can use the Browse button to display only stories from a specific topic, there’s no apparent rhyme or reason to the way those stories are organized within the globe. Frequently you’ll see the same thumbnail repeated two or three times in a small area, and there’s no easy way to determine when you’ve read every story in a section.
If, for some reason, you don’t find the default randomness random enough, you can give the iPad a quick shake to reshuffle the thumbnails. This is oddly satisfying but, like the globe itself, mostly useless.
When you’ve tired of fiddling with the globe—and I assure you, this won’t take long—tapping the mode button in the corner takes you to iPad-optimized version of the ABC News Website. The site is attractive and well organized, but looks and functions almost exactly as it would if you simply hit abcnews.com using the iPad’s Safari browser.
The app does provide one substantial benefit over the Website in its ability to save stories to a My Favorites section for offline viewing. Sadly, stories viewed offline do not include pictures or video clips; but neither do they include the humongous, full page ads that afflict readers browsing the Website.
If you don’t already use an offline reading utility like Instapaper, you might find ABC News for iPad useful for that feature alone. If not, you’ll find it to be little more than a gimmicky front end for a Website, and a fairly silly one at that.
[Macworld contributor Steve Lutz prefers to read his news wrapped around a truncated cone.]