When the iPad was released in Australia earlier this year, the Apple marketing engine was working overtime with bus, billboard and television commercials. One commercial that stuck in my mind was one that presented our national newspaper, The Australian, with an app available on the App store. The Australian iPad app was terrible, simply a re-production of their web content as with many similar other publications around the world.
But then came PressReader.
There are two key weaknesses in the many existing newspaper apps, firstly their lack of native touch, pinch and move gestures, and secondly limited web based content. PressReader covers both of these by providing high resolution PDF style scans of many (thousands) newspapers from around the world. The lack of web content and inclusion of advertisements provides a refreshing experience.
On loading PressReader for the first time, the user is provided with a trial account that provides seven complimentary downloads. When this download limit expires there are several options for upgrade, a basic account provides access to unlimited papers a month for US$29.95 or US$0.99 for pay as you go.
On the ‘My Library’ screen, the user simply touches the ‘Select Title’ button at the top right, this displays a list of around 90 countries including Australia, Guatemala, UK and the USA. Select a country to see a list of available newspapers. Choose a newspaper and pick from any print during the month, select a date, touch download and the file is stored on the iPad.
Downloads range in size, a 46 page full color publication is around 17MB. Once loaded the navigation is simple – pinch or double tap to zoom in, the same again to zoom out, for articles on multiple pages click the ‘continued’ hyperlink to jump ahead and finally press the index at the top to skip to different sections. It’s very simple.
Rotating the iPad provide both landscape and portrait views which is handy. Also tapping a headline once displays full text of the article that can be copied and pasted, or read aloud using built in text-to-speech.
There is a lot more to this app than meets the eye. At first it seemed as if newspapers were scanned, but on closer inspection when zooming into an image, parts of picture are rendered as vector whilst others are compressed JPG creating very bright and crisp images. There is clearly some smart image processing happening.
On the other hand, there are some annoying waiting times when zooming in to the paper, with around 2 second of lag on each zoom in.
All in all, this is the ultimate app for the iPad, Galaxy Tab, Android and any eReader. All too often I am asked “why do you need an iPad when you have an iPhone and a laptop?”, within 2 minutes of using this app on a tablet form factor, it all makes sense. It’s worth noting that PressReader is a universal app meaning it also works on both the iPhone and iPod Touch at native (albeit non-Retina display) resolution.
Special thanks to Maria Gioffre for her input on this review.