With mobile readers proving to be very avid readers of the Financial Times, the newspaper has launched a new version of its native Android app that it hopes will bring in more users on the platform on both smartphones and tablets.
For the FT’s new Android app, the newspaper is taking a page from its work creating an HTML5-based web app optimized for Apple’s iOS and has now done the same for Google’s mobile platform. But here, the FT has added in some native code to make the most of the Android devices’ form factor, user interface and other features, a spokesperson tells paidContent.
But whereas the FT dramatically pulled its native app from the iTunes App Store out of protest over Apple’s terms, this time around the app will be available through the official channel, in this case the Android Market, as well as via the company’s own app portal.
Apart from smoother navigation and search, the app features some of the bells and whistles that are becoming increasingly popular among newspaper and magazine apps: it allows for offline access and automatically gives a user content updates, set to a specific time if preferred. Also, subscriptions to the Android app are integrated with subscriptions across all mediums. The app also features a more comprehensive catalog of source material, including blogs and graphics from the newspaper and online editions.
In the case of Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), the FT had disagreed with Apple’s terms, which included not only a 30 percent commission with the transaction run through iTunes, but also the ability to hold on to customer subscription and usage information that the FT wanted for itself. That led the FT to publish its iOS app as a web app that users could access through a device’s browser.
It seems that with Android and Google (NSDQ: GOOG), however, the FT was able to arrange a deal to hold on to the data and subscription cuts for itself — or at least in a way that has satisfied the publisher.
“It’s fully integrated into the business model and subscriptions are sold directly through the app, not through Google’s Checkout,” the spokesperson noted to us in an email. While opting out of the App Store store also means that the FT does not get to be part of the new Newsstand feature in iOS 5, no such issue exists with Android, which doesn’t yet offer a targeted newsstand for publications.
This is not the FT’s first foray into Android apps: in October 2010, the company inked an exclusive deal with Samsung to provide an app bundled on its first Galaxy Tab. No such exclusivity has been worked into the deal this time — although in the FT’s own promotional shots for the app, it focuses only on Samsung devices.
In all, the FT says the app runs on Android 2.2 (Froyo) and above for phones and 3.1 (Gingerbread) and above for tablets. It says that compatibility with Ice Cream Sandwich is coming soon.
The FT is banking a lot on mobile users for its growth. It says that mobile, above even online, is now the biggest channel for digital subscriptions, driving 15 percent of the growth in new subscriptions, and an impressive 20 percent of traffic to FT.com.
The app is free to download but then requires payment for full use. Registered users get the first eight stories in a month free, but then need to pay to get more — either £4.49 or £6.49 ($7-10), depending on which features you want to have. But the FT is also promoting ads on the new app: the launch partner is Samsung, specifically around the Galaxy Note.