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Close on the heels of the Firstpost app for the iPad, Network18 has now launched a dedicated iPad app for IBN Live, its news portal that also features television content from its news network. The app that can be downloaded free of charge from the iTunes App Store has been developed by Robosoft Technologies, the same company which has developed other apps from Indian media houses including those coming from NDTV, and The Times of India.

Features & Interface

– More apps are coming out with non-standard interfaces and this one also joins the pack. Controls for Navigation, Access to Live  TV streams, dedicated buttons for navigating backwards and going to the home screen, access to social network and e-mail integration, Favourites and Settings are located at the top header. Just below the header, the app houses a news ticker featuring news updates and headlines.

  

– The first button on header hides a menu that allows a user to navigate the entire app. The menu features shortcuts to the ‘Cities’ section that offers news updates from major Indian cities, a detailed Weather section featuring the day’s high and low temperatures for major cities, Photogallery, Videos, Live scores, IBNLIVE’s Twitter handle, and news sections across Top Stories, India, Politics, Movies, Movie reviews/Masand’s Verdict, Cricket, Football, F1, Tennis, Sports,, Tech, TV, World, Business, Blogs and Books.

– The Live TV button lets users select live tv streams for CNN-IBN, IBN7 and IBN Lokmat.

– The home screen features colour coded columns featuring news stories from each category. There are some additional categories here, namely IBN South, India Global, Bollywood, Hollywood, Pakistan, American TV and Forbes India. Each column can be swiped horizontally to flip through three leading stories, except for the Top Stries column which lets users flip across ten leading stories. Clicking on the Colour coded category name takes one to that particular section.

– Portrait and Landscape mode offer a different column arrangement, with the Landscape mode offering more number of columns.

– Some sections such as Movies and Cities feature sub-menus for accessing sub-sections on their main page.

Scattered navigation: While we like the unconventional navigation, it gets too scattered at times and hinders content discovery. For example, we could only gain access to the American TV section when we used the iPad in landscape mode. Otherwise the column is hidden and does not feature in the the main navigation menu. Why not ensure a more coherent arrangement and place all sections under the main menu? Also, there are no running tickers for weather, stock updates and live scores.

  

Reading a particular news article: A standard article carries a related picture and text, which if in a multi-page format can be flipped horizontally. It also features controls for posting comments, sharing the page on social networks or e-mail or saving it under favourites. It also features buttons for accesing related news, video, or picture. However, we feel that this could have been done in a better way to utilize the iPad’s screen real estate, and avoid unnecessary flipping of pages. In Portrait mode, the image takes up a lot of space on top. Similarly, in Landscape mode, it takes more than half of the screen towards the right. This is a flaw in the user interface.

  

Content

Network18 owns multiple media properties, and that is one reason there’s plenty of news content in form of text articles from the IBN Live website, picture galleries, and news videos from CNN IBN. The app also features blogs by the editorial team featuring Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Bhupendra Chaubey, Gaurav Kalra and others. Stories are also sourced from other news sources including news agencies. The app does not feature stock exchange updates and charts. Live TV streams worked flawlessly on a 2Mbps connection.

Suggestions:

– We still don’t see an Indian news app offering personalization options. Why not allow the user to choose his favourite topics to browse news.

– There is no Search functionality to search through news articles or archived stories. A search feature can be added.

– The app did crash a couple of times on an iPad 1. We hope the future update makes it more stable.

– The navigation can be made more coherent to aid content discovery.

– Although visuals are important, there is a need to cut down on scrolling and flipping through pages specially on a large screen device like an iPad.