Search for BBC News in Android Market and you’ll get reams of results, all of them unofficial. Launched on iPhone mid-last year, it’s taken the Beeb 10 months to finally get round to coding its news app for Android. In the meantime, numerous charlatans have been plying their wares using the BBC’s good name. So does the official app have what it takes?
The first thing you notice about BBC News is that it apes the neat subject-row layout of Pulse News Reader which immediately wins it points with us. Pulse, of course, takes its feeds from all over the web, while BBC News has just one source for its happenings: that bastion of quality journalism, the BBC.
And that’s a good thing, even if that last sentence was loaded with sarcasm. The Beeb boasts the kind of journalistic skill within its ranks that most online news services either can’t afford to muster, or just plain don’t care enough about. Stories are well written and properly researched and the content is timely. But then the BBC has always been Valhalla for about 95% of media students in the UK, and probably further afield come to think of it.
There’s a wealth of feeds to choose from and you can customise which you want to ‘pin’ to your homescreen, and in what order you want them displayed. Choose from UK, World, Business, Politics, Sport, Technology and a host of other topics to customise your news feed.
Just about the only criticism we can level at the app centres around the sharing function. It’s actually quite tricky to figure out. Most apps would just use the menu button to bring up sharing. With BBC News you either have to hold your finger on the article thumbnail until you get a submenu that allows you to either view the full article or share it via email, Bluetooth, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever medium you see fit. The other option is to tap the screen again when you’re within an article to bring up both the font size and share options. Not what you’d expect.
If we’re being picky we’ve got another one for you – the minimum font size could do with being a little more minimal given the lack of real estate available on a lot of Android smartphones. As it is, you can blow text up to a hefty point size, but you can’t shrink it quite enough.
Video content is available for a number of top stories and, provided you have a decent 3G or Wi-Fi connection, load speeds are impressive, taking just a couple of seconds from tap to playback. The Beeb is quick to warn you of the potential costs involved, as you’d expect from one of our nation’s great institutions. It’s what we pay the licence fee for after all.
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The Bottom Line
Simple, feed-based app that sports neat UI and is eminently customisable. Video content buffers quickly. The only criticism is the counter-intuitive ‘share’ function. Oh, and the fact you can’t shrink the point size quite enough…
Version reviewed 1.01
Requires Android 1.6 or higher