Hot on the heels of its new mobile website, The Independent has released an iPhone news app this week.
The Independent iPhone app is a departure from some other newspaper apps, as it is designed to allows readers to download all the articles while they have a decent 3G or wi-fi connection, and saves them for reading while offline.
The look of the homepage differs from the other newspaper iPhone apps, and mimics the phone itself, making the menu visually appealing and easy to use.
When you open up the app, it immediately begins to download the latest articles and images, which for me on a wi-fi connection took a couple of minutes. The number of unread articles are shown by the red numbers, as well as by a bigger number next to the app's logo on the iPhone, which can be annoying:
I think the idea of downloading articles for use offline is excellent, and potentially very useful, though if you just want to load the app up quickly and read a couple of stories, it does slow the process up.
Thanks to the homepage layout, the different sections are easy to find, no need for any scrolling up and down, and no risk of clicking on the wrong link, which can be a problem with some mobile sites and apps.
Once you get down to the various sections though, more navigation options would be useful.
For example, the sport section doesn't provide any way for users to choose sub-categories, and juts displays all articles (32 in this case) in a list. So, if I'm looking for cricket news I have to scroll down to find the cricket articles that are mixed up in the list with all the other sports.
The app also lacks a search function, so users are limited to recent content, and are unable to search for older articles.
The articles are well displayed and, like the excellent FT iPhone app, makes them as easy to read as possible on the phone by providing a choice of text sizes,and keeping the navigation options to a minimum:
At the bottom of the page, options are provided to email the article or bookmark it for later reading. These posts can be accessed later from the main menu:
I like the fact that the newspaper has chosen a very different look from other news apps, and the ability to read articles offline is a very useful feature, especially of you're on the Tube, though the downloading can be a pain if your 3G reception is less than perfect.
I would have liked a search option though, and better navigational and sorting tools to drill down into the topics I want, but overall The Indy's app is a pretty good effort.