Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Agence France-Presse releases its first iPad edition; attractive design, but missing key features for a news app

Founded in 1835, Agence France-Presse (AFP) is the oldest news agency in the world. But here in the U.S., one almost never sees stories with the agency's byline on it unless you are reading a foreign newspaper or website. That is too bad because AFP fills a major hole created when many papers cut back on their foreign bureaus and foreign news coverage, generally.
For consumers, specifically iPad owners, AFP has a bit of a solution for you: their own iPad app which brings plenty of international news, sports and analysis to readers directly.

The new app, AFP iPad Edition, makes its App Store debut today and is free to download and access the content.

I like the overall design of the app as it works well in both portrait and landscape (because of my tablet cover by iPad is usually in landscape).

The app has the feel, however, of a work in progress as there are at least three features missing that seriously hamper the app.

First, there is no download mechanism. With WiFi on the reader can access the content of the stories in the section they are in, but if WiFi is turned off they discover that the content in the other sections has not downloaded. It is to be expected that the video would not accessible when in Airplane mode, but there should be a way to download the content for offline reading. (The Financial Times app is a good example of how this should work.) The work around is to make sure you have opened the section you want to read prior to shutting down your WiFi.
The second feature missing is AirPlay support. While the video will stream the audio portion of the content to an Apple TV no video is streamed making AirPlay basically worthless here. This is a huge error in that any media app with video should take advantage of AirPlay.

Finally, the article sharing is limited to emailing the stories – adding social networking seems almost de rigueur (sorry for that one). Also, the app has no push notifications – very strange for a news app.

These features, however, can certainly be added in future updates. In the meantime, the app does have font controls and solid navigation, making this app a pleasure to use.

AFP has one other iOS app in the App Store. AFP Mobile is a paid app, $1.99, and has received pretty cold reviews inside the App Store. The three big complaints are that French is not an option, there are no push notifications, and that there is no ability to share articles through Twitter or Facebook – pretty much the same issues the iPad edition has.


ptaillandier said...


Just for the record, it is not the first AFP iPad application. One in Japanese was published in 2010 http://itunes.apple.com/jp/app/afpbb-news/id394851678?mt=8


Douglas Hebbard said...

Thanks for the link. I suppose it would be better to say that it is the first iPad app released in the U.S. App Store.

On the other hand, the Japanese app is really a mobile app that added iPad support.

So maybe it is better to say this is the first app designed specifically for the iPad.