Ad: Our Apps Coverage is brought to you by Intel AppUp℠ center. Join the Intel AppUp℠ developer program to develop and sell your apps on the Intel AppUp℠ center.

The Express Group, publishers of the leading daily, The Indian Express, have launched an iPad app for the newspaper. The free app, which has been designed and developed by Mediology Software, can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store. With this, nearly all major Indian English dailies now offer a native iPad app including The Times of India and Hindustan Times. Although print publications constantly update their websites with the latest news, the availability of an app allows readers to cut through the clutter and offers an experience close to reading a paper or a magazine, in addition to offering the interactivity of an online destination.

Just like similar apps from other publications, The Indian Express app offers access to updated stories across various categories, from the group’s stable in addition to value adds like a photo gallery section, a copy (e-paper) of the day’s print edition for Delhi and Mumbai, and the Sunday Express magazine. However, a major flaw that we noticed was that the app does not support landscape orientation, which is a shame considering the iPad’s ability to offer a flexible orientation that can be utilised by apps to offer more columns or reading space. The app displays banner advertisements, while reading articles.

The app does not offer other dynamic value adds such as a news ticker, weather or stock updates or live cricket scores.

Our take on the iPad app:

 

– Interface: The interface is clean and does not employ much use of colour in contrast to some recent apps that offered colour coded buttons. It has 2-3 columns and as we discussed above, the missing support for landscape orientation, restricts the app in terms of flexibility in utilising screen real-estate.

The app supports vertical and horizontal scrolling, and while vertical scrolling takes the user to the other parts of the same section, horizontal scrolling takes him to the next section. The app does not offer any indicators to guide the user that he can scroll across, which, in our opinion is a gap in terms of the intuitiveness of the user interface.

To jump to other sections, one can use a navigation menu located at the bottom of the page or use the drop-down box at the top on the left hand side or just swipe horizontally. Although, the bottom navigation menu is visible, even while reading an article, it does not work, unless one closes it.

The news articles do not show up full screen(some people prefer this to avoid distraction) and a banner ad is displayed at the bottom, in addition to the navigation menu and some other buttons.

Controls for saving stories for later reading, accessing print editions and picture galleries are located at the bottom with a settings control that doesn’t serve any purpose other than displaying information about the publication and the developer.

Individual articles come with controls for saving the article, going back to the previous and going forward to the next article. It also features a web-like social network sharing button. There are no controls for resizing the text or for posting comments.

– Content: The app features banner ads-which is a little surprising for a newly launched news app. The app offers content across all categories including Latest News, Business, India, World, Cities, Entertainment, Sports, Lifestyle, Health, Edittorials and Movie Reviews. The app does not offer videos but photo galleries do make an appearance. There are no sub-scetions within sections, for example there is just one ‘Cities’ section and no way to read news related to just Delhi or Mumbai or any other Indian city, independently. News stories or editorials do not feature writer bylines.

The app totally misses out on user comments. There is no way to comment on stories, making the app less interactive.

The app does not offer anything extra-ordinary other than access to the Indian Express e-papers. Compared to iPad apps from Times of India and Hindustan Times, the app lags behind in terms of content as well as the overall user experience.

Suggestions:

– The app should add support for landscape orientation.

– Subsections within sections should be offered for certain sections to help the user filter out news which he would like to read. For example, a cricket lover would like a cricket sub-section to read all cricket related stories.

– A comments system needs to be integrated for users to comment and discuss stories.

– Some additional navigation elements like scroll indicators can be added to improve the overall UI. The bottom navigation menu can either be made functional in the article view mode or be totally done away with.

– At times, the news sections take too long to load. This can be fixed in the next update.