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It’s a little late getting here, but today, CNN (s twx) introduced its iPad (s aapl) app. The app is free, and features a unique user interface custom-designed for the iPad’s larger screen. Simultaneous with the iPad app’s release, CNN is making its existing iPhone app free, and introducing live breaking news video to the international version.
CNN seems to have been watching and learning prior to this iPad release, judging from the UI design the news organization came up with. It looks a little like Pulse, the popular iPad newsreader, and a bit like Flipboard, too. The emphasis, at least in the default photo-collage view, is on the visual, with headlines acting as captions to bright, high-res photos. You can also switch to the much less flashy list view, or see all the stories as a slideshow, with a single high-res photo taking up the whole iPad screen at a time with a headline and full story link at the bottom.
The interface is nice, and a pleasure to navigate, though advertisements that seem awkwardly thrown in as an afterthought do draw the eye a bit too much. There are some spacing issues with text in the inline comment display on the main screen in photo-collage view, but it’s likely a problem that will only bother design-focused users.
The CNN app does pack a ton of great features, and puts a strong emphasis on social networking and interaction, something that sets it apart from many of its competitors. As mentioned, there’s a box on the home screen featuring user comments on the most discussed article of the day, and you can easily share stories by Facebook, Twitter or email. You can also expand comments on a story in a column that takes up half the screen, while the story remains visible on the left, which strikes me as a much better way to encourage engagement than the traditional “comments follow the post” way of doing things on the web.
Live video and hourly CNN radio updates are accessible via buttons at the top of the app’s interface, as is access to your CNN.com profile, which is required for commenting. Both video and audio quality during my testing were fantastic for those features, though I did experience some sync issues when viewing pre-recorded video associated with some of the articles. Also, video forces a full-screen viewer, while I’d prefer it to just play in place above the article, with the option to switch to full screen if desired.
CNN may be late to the party, but the fact that it brought a unique spin on the standard iPad newsreader app makes it worth waiting for. Check it out (or just watch CNN’s official promotional video below if you don’t have access to your iPad) and let us know what you think.
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