Blog Post

Guardian News & Media Enters Smartphone Arena With £2.39 iPhone App

Guardian News & Media has launched its paid-for iPhone app in a bid to corner the news app market in the UK, US and Ireland – and it’s looking into launching on other mobile platforms in future.

As paidContent:UK revealed in September, GNM has been working on the app for months. And although the company believes in keeping its main desktop and mobile website free, it sees no problem with charging £2.39 ($3.99 in the U.S.) for a premium mobile app.

GNM’s head of mobile products Jonathon Moore told us: “The browser is a one-to-many experience and it’s difficult to create a perfectly optimised version for each device, but apps let you create a really useful experience with functionality you won’t find anywhere else.”

The app’s functionality and design was created and tested in-house — this is a first, claims Moore — but the app was built by agency 2ergo, the people behind Arsenal’s paid-for app and others.

But while the Telegraph’s app is free thanks to healthy sponsorship from the likes of Dell and Cisco (NSDQ: CSCO), GNM’s app has no ads at all at launch. Moore doesn’t rule out having ads in future but for the time being readers are spared.

The functions include:

— Offline reading and offline audio playback via automatic or manual downloading.
— Readers can quickly favourite articles and authors and customise the homepage.
— Fast download speeds — a 30 min podcast takes about 30 seconds to download for offline listening.
— Picture galleries with full screen viewing.
— Browse by subject and author and look at “trending articles”: content that’s popular on Guardian.co.uk.

But nothing is perfect and here’s what it doesn’t have: video, geo-targeting or links to services on the wider web. The Telegraph’s free iPhone app may not be as slick, fast or intuitive but has original video content, a real-time Twitter interface and geo-specific weather updates using the iPhone’s GPS capability. GNM tells us that it is looking at adding video in future.

Does it justify the price? For me, yes. The news app market is underdeveloped compared to, for example, the rich variety of free and paid-for games available on the iPhone and the vast majority of apps. The Guardian app interface looks fantastic, it’s fast, the offline reading/listening facility is a real bonus and its content-search and findability is probably second to none. It doesn’t have everything, but then there’s always updates…

Here’s The Guardian’s video of the app in action:

Disclosure: paidContent:UK’s parent company Guardian News & Media is a wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian News & Media.