We finally received word that the BBC News App would be released on Friday 23 July after months of waiting in the wings at the behest of the BBC Trust and many angry competitors. These competitors claimed that the release of a BBC app would be anti-competitive. But, in a period where news corporations are starting to charge to read their stance on world news, is it really anti-competitive or is it anti-capitalist?
The real question is, what does our licence fee cover? Initially, it has covered TV and radio but now that we’ve moved into the 21st century and the BBC are leading the way in online development. If they are spending our licence money in the online arena, surely an iPhone app (other formats to follow) is a necessary right to those that choose to purchase an iPhone.But is the app actually that good? It’s been waiting in the App Store queue for a while now so it was obviously finished some time ago. Has it been surpassed while it’s been sitting in the sidelines?The initial splash screen oozes the quality that we are used to from any BBC production.
When we enter the app, it’s very evident that it is media heavy. Video is abundant throughout the app and the timely introduction to the app store coincides with the recent redesign of the BBC news website. The menu has a tendency to scroll slowly, although I am using a 3GS (on wifi) and not necessarily the new 4.0 with it’s stronger processors.I’m glad that the BBC have invested the time in integrating a video player, but then the video content is at the heart of the app, so it would be foolish not to.You have the option to edit the interface to your own preference, which continues the options allowed from the BBC home page with their jQuery drag and drop interface.
This puts the user in control.It also invites interactivity by inviting you to send your story or image in, but this is nothing new as we have seen this in the Sky News app.Once in a news story though, the navigation does not stop, you can swipe through those stories at your hearts content and accessibility is evident in the user interface allowing the user to increase the size of the text. The viral aspect is also evident allowing you to share stories by email, facebook and twitter. These options are slowly becoming the norm amongst most sites.A bug that may be addressed though: On attempting to view the live stream, the app didn’t think that I was in the UK (even though I was in the heart of London). I’m sure my GPS isn’t broken because I just used Google Maps and Foursquare and they both know where I am.All in all, it’s great that they’ve let the BBC app in the app store. Other news corps will have to up their game and the only winner in all of this is the licence payer.
We can justify that £142.50 a little bit more.