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HT Media has launched an app for its newspaper, The Hindustan Times for the iPad. The app is available for download in the iTunes App Store. There is no subscription fee for access to content.

The app offers standard features allowing readers to access the publication’s stories classified under different sections, as well as videos and photos, and online blogs from its columnists and writers.

Our take on the iPad app:

– Interface: The interface is clean as well as a bit colourful, due to the presence of a picture gallery and colour-coded bookmark-like buttons for accessing the various sections of the app. It has varying number of columns (depending on portrait or landscape mode) featuring news articles and video and photo galleries on the home page(with horizontal scrolling enabled).

  

Similar to The Times of India app, the news articles do not show up full screen(some people prefer this to avoid distraction) and a side column featuring the Photo Gallery in the particular category accompanies them, but only in the landscape mode. The buttons to save a story, a slider to change the font size and sharing it on social networks or e-mail are integrated with each story, with arrow buttons to switch to the previous or next story in a section, at the bottom. A blue arrow button opens up the Related Stories drawer at the bottom of each story.

Three miniscule buttons to refresh the app, access the favorites/saved stories and change settings for authenticating social network accounts are located at the top-left corner above the colour-coded section bookmarks. Weather information is also displayed with the header, albeit only in the landscape mode, that opens a box with the day’s weather and a six day forecast for major Indian and International locations.

Users can browse through different sections by swiping the page horizontally when in a section’s homepage, and browse back and forth through stories in a section with the same action. They can also view and post comments on individual story pages.

– Content: The app is ad-free at the time of writing this post. The app offers content across all categories including News, Views, Business, Cricket, Sports(yes Cricket has been given its ‘due’ just like the TOI app), Leisure, Blogs, a special section on the Champions League20(Yes there’s more cricket),Photos and Videos. Videos features news videos from ANI and NewsX and is also classified into categories. Same goes for photos.

  

Each section features related photos and videos. The Sports section also features a score card, while the Business section features charts for national and international indices and top gainers and losers in the stock market. We wonder why Tech and Entertainment were not given separate space and were merged with Business and Leisure, respectively.

A Help page which shows-up when one accesses the app for the first time describing scroll gestures, controls and features is an interesting idea, borrowed from international apps. The help page can be launched any time through the Settings button.

  

The app offers a wide range of content from the Hindustan Times, including its web content and editorials. With this, news junkies have access to the two major English Indian dailies on their iPads.Our overall experience with the app was pleasant. We did not experience any crashes during our use of the app, and it utilizes iOS’ multi-tasking/app switching ability, i.e one lands up where he left, in case he’s switched to another app.

While news junkies who’re HT loyalists are more like to be regular users, we feel that a lot of iPad users use Twitter or an RSS reader to get their daily news fix. We hope the app offers more personalization options in forthcoming updates with closer integration with Twitter and Google Reader.

Suggestions:

– Specific, more targeted sections can be added instead of putting everything under broad categories, which is making discovery difficult. For example, News can be further divided into National, City and Global. Sections for Tech and Entertainment can be introduced.
– The app should take advantage of OS features like push alerts to update users who want them (Yes, these can be turned off and the TOI app has now enabled them after an update).
– To cut distraction, and unnecessary scrolling, a full screen view can be offered in the iPad app.
– Why not introduce a dedicated ticker for breaking news, weather(available only in Landscape mode at the moment) and stock updates?
– Personalization, with an option to create a custom homepage and add and remove sections can be introduced, along with intelligent news suggestions taking clue from the user’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.