Review: BBCReader for iPhone

Ben Boychuk
2 January, 2009
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App Guide

BBCReader from newwaytoseenews bears a passing resemblance to the NYTimes news app for the iPhone and iPod touch. Both apps have similar interfaces—the day’s top stories appear on the first screen, with headlines, short blurbs and small images scrolling down the left-hand side of the screen. Both apps are content-rich, with sections coving a broad spectrum of world news, health, technology, business and entertainment. And both apps are interminably slow to load.

That’s the trouble with being a large and influential global news provider: All of those stories can choke your bandwidth and bog down your device.

This Is The BBC: Stories in the BBCReader load exactly as they would on the news organisation’s Web site—and on an iPhone, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

I understand why The New York Times app lags. The app downloads the day’s newspaper and lets you read whether or not you have a Wi-Fi or 3G connection. I understand it—but I still don’t have to like it. BBC Reader ostensibly does the same as the Times app, though not nearly as seamlessly. To enable BBCReader’s “offline mode,” you must tap the “Info” button at the bottom of the screen and flip a switch. The app will not retrieve articles in offline mode, but will only show articles you previously downloaded to the cache. At least with NYTimes, you can read what you’ve downloaded offline without the inconvenience of flipping a switch.

The stories in BBCReader load exactly as they would from the BBC Web site, complete with banners, left-hand navigation, and other sidebar matter. That works fine on an ordinary browser but tends to clutter an app made for viewing on a handheld a device. So, once a story opens, you must double-tap the screen to make the text readable. BBCReader displays type in two sizes: Microscopic or whatever fits on screen when you zoom in. It does not support a landscape mode.

BBCReader does offer a couple of nice features. The photo slideshow is a different way of viewing images than the Time’s page of icons. And a history button makes for easier browsing of stories you’ve already read but may wish to refer back to.

But, on the whole, BBCReader offers a second-rate way to read news from a first-rate media outlet.

The application is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.1 software update.

[Ben Boychuk is a freelance writer and columnist in Rialto, Calif.]

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