As a major news outlet, it’s a little late to the iPhone party, but CNN has finally released an official app that covers its entire news network, unlike the previously available CNN Money application. The paid app features text, video and photo updates throughout the day, including breaking news updates that make use of the iPhone’s push notification features.
I was looking forward to a Wolf Blitzer splash page, but so far, none has been found. Maybe it’s an Easter egg. CNN for the iPhone also includes support for iReport functionality, the scheme by which you can become a reporter simply by snapping a photo or shooting some video and sending it off to the giant news corporation without hope of compensation.
Pricey and Polished
My own personal distaste for CNN’s crowd-sourcing lazy reporting scheme aside, they do provide a pretty slick app, especially compared to some of its peers. And it should perform well, since the cost of entry for the end user is $1.99. Since it’s a paid app, I’d also expect not to be burdened by intrusive advertising. CNN does however sport the occasional banner ad, sandwiched lovingly in between news items. Not unforgivable, but irksome in a paid app.
Navigation is nice, though, with stories loading quickly, and appearing in a list-style view when the device is vertical, or in a cover-flow type interface when you hold the iPhone horizontally. Tapping a story in cover-flow mode brings up a summary with the key points in bullet form, so you no longer have to go through the hassle of actually reading an article to stay relevant and informed.
You can also click through to the full article, and share any piece quickly and easily via email, SMS, Twitter or Facebook. When you tweet a story, the app asks for your Twitter account credentials, and allows you to customize the post before it’s published. Facebook sharing uses Facebook Connect to automatically post content with optional comments to your wall. CNN really has nailed down the social media aspect of this app.
As mentioned earlier, iReport is built in, so you can browse user generated stories, sign-in to your account if you have one, or just anonymously post photo and video content using a guest account. Truly, the culmination of responsible journalism. It is admittedly cool to be able to browse through and watch multiple first-hand accounts of events that would’ve maybe been caught on one or two surveillance cameras 10 years ago, though.
Like AP News, CNN allows you to customize the content you see using location information you manually input or the location info taken from the device’s core location services. You can also “follow” a developing story, so that as new content is published relating to the topic, you’ll receive notifications via push. Interestingly, I couldn’t follow the topic “tsunami” when I tried just now, although the term “baseball” worked just fine.
You can also stream live video or watch on-demand clips from the app, which is a big plus considering CNN’s extensive commitment to live multi-stream video news via the web. Finally, if you want to access stories later when you’re not connected, you can save any story for viewing. Good news for iPod touch users.
Is it worth $1.99? That depends on how much you like the news, and on how much you like CNN’s coverage of said news. It feels a lot more professionally done than other apps in this category, and video feeds and archived footage seems to load and play quickly and without issue, but there is the occasional ad and you have to pay for the privilege. Ideally, I’d like to see a scaled down free version, but don’t expect that to happen unless CNN sees lackluster sales during the launch of this current iteration.