Review: The New York Times
Even though money is being invested in mobile web sites, the key players in the media landscapes are turning to mobile applications to help deliver their stories, features and news to their readers. Next up in the list of news apps for Windows Phone, the New York Times. How does this app compare to other similar apps?
Version Reviewed: 18.104.22.168
Thanks to the Windows Phone design language, and the number of media applications that come before it, there is little surprise to find the New York Times (NYT) opening up with a panorama view. It covers the latest stories, the most popular stories, a selection of videos, and links into the different sections of the NYT.
As always it's the 'sections' view that I find the most interesting, allowing me to zero in on the news that I want to read. For example I'm going to read the Technology section far more often than US politics. It's just a shame that I can't re-order the sections list in the app to something that suits how I want to read the news, and not what the NYT app developer has decided is the optimum layout.
Each section has a similar layout, with a list of articles, relevant blog posts and video segments in a mini panorama, providing a nice bit of consistent visual language throughout the app. The NYT is particularly strong in video, with the majority of sections providing some video content along with the articles. All the video playback is passed over to an instance of the built in media player, although it's worth pointing out that this is not integrated into the 'music+video' hub of Windows Phone. Don't bother looking for the NYT in your history lists or as a media application. A missed opportunity to work with the hooks and environment provided by Windows Phone.
Anyone following the ups and downs of the online news industry will know that the NYT has moved to a 'porous' subscription model - this is one that limits the number of articles a browser can read per month before paying the monthly fee. The Windows Phone app is limited to just four free articles before you will be asked to subscribe.
This feels a bit sneaky to me. It's briefly touched upon in the Marketplace listing, but there's no immediate warning when installing the application that it is a limited trial as opposed to a 'free' application. As the payment system is outside of the Windows Marketplace, this is technically true, but in practice it's a way for the NYT to get a recurring subscription fee from every reader. I would have liked to have seen a more open and functional trial, and more honest presentation in the code to avoid the gotcha moment when the app asks you for some cold hard cash. Interestingly, the video sections do not have a viewing limit on them, so you can watch the opinions and news as often as you like, you just can't read about the stories without paying (an odd situation - Ed).
The NYT app works, but it's not stunning in any way. It does deliver what it sets out to do, and no more. What it does it does well, the presentation feels a little bit more than a block of text, and it carries over the layout that will be familiar to those of the full-web and print editions. My issue is how the NYT app feels when used next to other applications from other newspapers and media organisations.
I expect quite a bit out of my news apps now. I'd like to see some of the innovation that other news apps have brought to the Windows Phone platform. I'd like to see caching and offline options that are easy to implement. I'd like to be able to re-organise the topics section to put my favourites at the top. I'd like to have the option to share the articles that I am reading with friends over email and more publicly on my social networks.
Twelve months ago this app might have been fit for purpose, but in August 2012 it simply shows just how much people expect from a news app, by virtue of not having a number of features that make the best use of the Windows Phone OS.
If you are a subscriber to the Old Grey Lady, then this is a little bonus to have on your phone. If you're new to the NYT, then I don't see this application converting you to a paid subscriber, it's just too much of a bare bones effort when others are doing it far more professionally on the platform.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at