HT Media has launched an iPad app for its business newspaper, Mint. The app is available as a free download in the iTunes App Store, however, it will become a paid app after completing 45 days of its launch. There is no subscription fee for access to content, at the moment.
– Buggy: We tested the Mint app on an iPad 1 with iOS 5 and it crashed a few times, including once while rotating the device. At other times we got stuck, and had no other option but to relaunch the app, which makes it download the entire content again. It’s extremely buggy or has not been tested on iOS5.
The app downloads all content at the first launch for supposedly quicker access, and some content is accessible even while the rest is being downloaded. We thought that this might allow us to browse content offline, however, after turning off internet connectivity on our iPad, we found out that while text is available, pictures and videos were not. Also, if you happen to click on a feature that requires connectivity, such as the World Time widget, the app gets stuck.
– Interface: The app has a neat layout and supports both portrait as well as landscape mode. It’s divided into nine sections, accessible through a colour coded navigation bar on the top, which can be hidden by tapping on the Sections button. Users can jump from one section to the other by scrolling horizontally. The same is the case if one wants to jump from one story in a particular section to another one. Accompanying it are controls for refreshing the app content and a settings button which houses controls for linking the app to social networks, an FAQ and a rather hilarious ‘Do-It-Yourself App Guide’ page. It also houses a nifty ‘World Time’ widget, that offers world-time on a Rolex watch.
– New features: The app integrates some interesting elements which we,ve not come across in other Indian newspaper app. One is the very native iOS style Plus button which allows readers to add stories to the ‘saved’ list for later reading even without opening them. There’s also an AirPrint button for printing articles directly from the app if you happen to own a Wifi enabled printer that supports the feature, in your network.
– No Full screen reading: Even in this app there’s no option of reading an article full-screen. Also, we fail to understand why app designers don’t use the iPad’s landscape orientation optimally. To our surprise, reading an article in landscape mode fits in less text until the user scrolls down. Ideally, scrolling should have been eliminated and text reformatted to be displayed in two columns. Articles with embedded videos do not display them at the moment.
In the article reading mode there are buttons on the side for AirPrint, sharing across social networks and email, comments, resizing the text, and saving the story for later reading, in addition to a Related button that expands to swipe across related stories.
The Markets section features interactive charts and scrollable lists. Items in the lists for example stock, commodity or currency prices can be tapped to get detailed interactive intraday charts.
Each section features a swipe-through list of videos and slide shows. The app also has a multimedia section where all videos and slide shows are available.
It also offers Aurasma which appears to be an augmented reality feature that offers videos when the iPad’s camera is directed at an image. We weren’t able to test it since the iPad 1 does not have a camera and the button was not available. We’ll try it on the iPad2 and update.
– Content: The app offers content across categories like Page 1, News, Opinion, Money, Markets, Lounge, Indulge and Multimedia. The respective sections offer news and feature articles, videos and slideshows from the publication. The Money section also offers charts for indices and forex rates. The Markets section offers interactive intraday charts for indices including the NSE, BSE, NAZDAQ, DOWJONES, HANG SENG, NIKKEI and FTSE. It also offers detailed lists and intraday charts for top gainers and losers, currencies and commodities.
– The app could also include a personalization feature, which allows the user to create his own front page, based on segments of interest
– Market alerts would be useful, especially with a ‘watchlist’ of stocks
– Downloading content: It would be great if the app could let the user choose if he actually wants to download the whole content or just load content as he browses. There are times when one is using data networks, and may not want to incur the cost of the entire content being downloaded. If it downloads full content, that, in our opinion should include videos and accompanying pictures.