The Australian Financial Review app for iPad… reviewed

It has taken a ridiculously long time, but the Australian Financial Review has finally launched a new app, one which is apparently the pointy end of the “world’s only truly integrated newsroom.”

It’s not a bad app although clearly based on the same platform as the Sydney Morning Herald, which remains not my favourite. The one significant, and welcome difference, is that the AFR editors obviously think that their readers have a greater attention span, or better glasses, and so put more text on the page. Where the Herald displays headlines and one line of text the AFR seems to get more information on the page by putting in fewer photographs. This results in a much cleaner and more useful layout and easier access to the content.

The Herald and AFR apps appeal to me personally less than the Sydney Morning Herald’s Newspaper app which displays the Herald exactly like the printed copy. While I understand the push away from that format I still find it a great way to see what’s important and to have the shared experience of talking to others about ‘what I saw on page 4 of today’s newspaper’. I also prefer the New York Times rather slicker interface which, while still being pure app, looks more newspaper-like and also includes more common interface ideas such as closing an article by pinching, and scrolling down to move between sections. That’s not to say the AFR app is bad, it isn’t; but there is still a lot to be said for not departing too far from the tried and true newspaper presentation while using increasingly commonly accepted navigation techniques.

Anyway, the first AFR app reviews in iTunes are excellent, both applauding its presentation and the functionality – especially that watchlists from the website persist within the app.

The AFR is available purely digitally for $59 per month or $680 for the year. Paper subscribers do not, apparently, have to pay extra for access. There are free trials lasting a month available to really try it out or you can just download the app for free and take a look at some sample content.

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