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iPhone and iPad app update

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 11:35 UK time, Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Screenshots of the iPad and iPhone apps

On Tuesday we are releasing an update to the BBC News iPhone and iPad app in the UK designed to make the app faster and more stable, with bigger, better quality images on the home screen.

We are busy doing some research and thinking at the moment about what people are looking for in our News apps in the longer term, but we thought that in the meantime, it was important to fix one or two bugs affecting some users of the existing app and to make it a better, slicker experience overall.

We want to make sure the current app remains a great way to get a quick overview of the top stories across a wide range of subjects, easy-to-scan on a mobile and, once the stories have loaded, handy to read offline too.

So, it will now be quicker to start up the app and to update it, and it should feel smoother and faster as you scroll and swipe through the screens and stories.

The larger homescreen images we've introduced serve two purposes:

  • first, you can see what's in them more clearly and there's more room for the headline
  • second, their positioning makes it clearer that you can scroll horizontally in each news category to reveal more stories (we noticed that in user testing some people assumed there were only three stories a section).

There is a new layout on iPad when you view the home screen in portrait mode - designed to show more headlines and make it easier to find the stories you're interested in.

Among the bugs that we've fixed is an issue that sometimes caused the app to get stuck when updating, and another where you sometimes saw duplicate stories within a single news category.

For our product team, these improvements required a fairly major reworking of the app's code. The good news is that they are now working from a more stable base which can be built on with new features and functionality. This revising of our code is something we've already done with our Android app, so we'll now be able to release upgrades simultaneously on both iOS and Android, which are by far the largest mobile platforms for us in terms of users. This latest update is already available internationally.

If you're a user of the app, or decide to try it out, we hope you'll like the improvements we've made. And as we think about our apps generally and plan our next steps, we'd like to hear about what you'd most like to see in future.

Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.


  • Comment number 1.

    Here's what I'd like to see: the BBC develop its own Windows Phone app and not use bully-boy tactics to force a non-profit-making third-party developer to withdraw his own BBC News app from the store.

  • Comment number 2.

    That's a bit rich given that the BBC themselves ripped-off a third-party developer (Pulse) in creating their news app.

  • Comment number 3.

    Perhaps you should put together a Windows Phone app first so that those people that pay the licence who don't own an Apple product can also obtain the benefits of your development efforts? Especially considering you have forced the 3rd party app off of the Windows store?

  • Comment number 4.

    A windows phone app would be great. There was a really good third party app but as Griff says above the BBC forced the developer to remove the app from the store.

  • Comment number 5.

    Good for iOS users, but still nothing for Windows Phone. Is there an app on the way?

  • Comment number 6.

    I would also like to see the BBC develop its own Windows Phone app and not use bully-boy tactics to force a non-profit-making third-party developer to withdraw his own BBC News app from the store.

  • Comment number 7.

    I'll add my complaint about the lack of Windows Phone 8 App - why has the excellent third party FREE App been taken away when you haven't made your own WP app. Alternatively help to upgrade that App to your corporate identity!

    Forcing users to use the awful and difficult to navigate mobile site will not endear many Windows Phone users.

    Buck up and use my licence fee for something I want!!

  • Comment number 8.

    What right does a third party developer have in publishing licence-paid content to a global audience. Check out what apps are available before selecting your mobile platform. Don't blame the BBC.

  • Comment number 9.

    What's this - a coordinated campaign complaining about "bully-boy tactics" from Windows Phone 8 users? (All 6 of them)

  • Comment number 10.

    Thanks for the comments so far. On developing our own Windows app - we currently have apps for Apple and Android devices, which account for more than 75% of the UK smartphone market. We haven't ruled out developing apps for other platforms but building apps is expensive and as a publicly-funded organisation we have to prioritise the areas where we can reach the most users for the lowest cost.

  • Comment number 11.

    ...Also, on the third-party app that’s been referred to - the BBC has terms and conditions of usage to protect content which has been paid for by licence fee-payers, while also enabling further distribution which is fair to all parties without implying endorsement by the BBC. We asked the developer to conform to these, but instead they decided to remove the app from the store.

  • Comment number 12.

    I quite like the News app (on Android). But I'm less keen on the Sport one, particularly the need to confirm that you really want to quit. Are you likely to be changing it so that it's consistent with the way the News app works?

  • Comment number 13.

    Don't you realize that you are going in the completely wrong direction??? The ancient original BBC website was lucid and unparalleled in being able to convey content quickly and let you click through to real information. What we need it not bigger jpgs but text! I maintain that text on news sites is far more informative than pictures

  • Comment number 14.

    Look at screenshots of the early BBC website and see if you don't agree that it was possible to convey much more information per pixel with the text-based content. The BBC has an superb depth of content that no other provider can touch, PLEASE use it.The BBC cheapens its reputation by being image-driven. If I want pictures of Lindsay Lohan, I don't go to the BBC site.

  • Comment number 15.

    Never mind the busybodies. I think that the new format for iPad is strikingly unusual and really quite effective. Takes a bit of getting used to but at least the app is not simply a replica of the browser version.

  • Comment number 16.

    iPhone app being updated is good news to me. I'm a heavy user of this app and have sent in a number of suggestions in the past, without reply. The user experience (UX) of the existing app was getting quite especially as the years have trundled past and other news apps an aggregators have been innovating and delivering much richer UX.

  • Comment number 17.

    Oh will you Windows phone users stop complaining. Surely you knew about the lack of apps when you bought your phones?

  • Comment number 18.

    Admit it Steve it is not a patch on Sky's. It has videos, weather forecasts and everything.

  • Comment number 19.

    Seeing as I agree with the idea that the BBC should be providing value for the money that it receives from me and others, can the BBC explain what it cost to produce and support the apps for the Apple and Google platforms. Per application, I'd like to see costs and time (effort) broken down by design, development, testing, support and other costs.

  • Comment number 20.

    Look. You're done on iOS. Its complete. Leave it. Sack the devs and save us money. Now its time for wider support. Make some Android apps that work. Support Blackberry and Windows. But for crying out loud 70% of the market is now Android. Support it properly.

  • Comment number 21.

    I like the new format (so far), but I've only just downloaded it.

  • Comment number 22.

    @sparanets – your initial point is valid, the second one is less so. When selecting the WP8 platform there was a BBC app available.

  • Comment number 23.

    @vampire – I have more than enough apps for my needs thanks very much. The point here is that the BBC should not focus the majority of their efforts on one particular platform. We are all licence payers and they should concentrate on overall coverage. I agree you can't focus on every minority but Windows as a whole is not particularly small.

  • Comment number 24.

    @steve – from my point of view the BBC should be focusing on coverage, not specialising on one particular platform. I know from experience that the BBC are very much an Apple focused organisation and I appreciate that is likely to occur. However, as @stretch has mentioned, the iOS app is fine, you don’t need to be spending all these “expensive resources” on continually improving them...

  • Comment number 25.

    @steve – …Instead you should be using these resources to improve the other platforms or build options for the alternatives that do not have official versions. In fact, perhaps you could have leveraged the existing code from the 3rd party dev to build your own app, thereby reducing the expense you highlighted?

  • Comment number 26.

    @mark (#19) why don't you put in an FOI request and find out?

  • Comment number 27.

    @Alex - I have done just that.

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    Any love for smaller Android tablets? My 7" Archos A70S (Gingerbread) can only run the app in portrait and it drives me mad (Google Play also says the app is incompatible). The split-screen layout on my Nexus 10 is workable, but could also be improved.
    Since you are catering to the broadest user base, how about focusing on Android and compatibility with older devices?

  • Comment number 30.

    It still doesn't reliably update. Despite two refreshes over fast wifi I've been looking at 'Updated 6 hours ago' for the last 5 mins -- no, tell a lie, it's now updated! Perhaps that basic code is still not quite right!!

  • Comment number 31.

    @ Steve Herrmann: Yes, building apps is expensive, but you did it for iOS. Did you have apriori information on how many users would download and use it? Probably not, but you still built it. There are over half a million users of the unofficial BBC app on Win8/RT and WP platforms. That is not a small number, and is bound to increase if/when BBC releases an official app. #BringBBCToWP.

  • Comment number 32.

    The new updated app is really good. I downloaded it yesterday and it is better than the previous version.

  • Comment number 33.

    Why does the bbc hide the good news about the service economy results on it's business page, while announcing news of Euro interest rates on the front page. Typical left wing garbage gloom & doom from the BBC trying to hide good news!

  • Comment number 34.

    A true gentleman and a great loss to the world. He was my Example of capability in this mixed up world.

  • Comment number 35.

    @AAA wrote "Did you have apriori information on how many users would download and use it?"

    I bet they have very accurate data as to what platforms users of the BBC Web site are using. I doubt the relative app-usage would be much different.

  • Comment number 36.

  • Comment number 37.

    Hi again. Re the comments about focusing on iOS: Our approach is to treat our Android and Apple apps equally – we don’t prioritise one over the other. The update we have delivered here actually brings the Apple app more closely into line with our Android version, for which we completed a similar piece of work just before Christmas. The Android app supports all devices back to version 1.6.

  • Comment number 38.

    @scooterch Our product team say that landscape support for all Android devices is in our plans, and we hope to be able to deliver that feature in the near future.

  • Comment number 39.

    I'm sorry but saying that providing such an obvious feature as landscape support is something you 'hope to deliver in the future' (and if the farce of the iplayer saga is anything to go by that means anything from 5 months to not in your lifetime) proves that you do not treat iOS and Android equally.

  • Comment number 40.

    Yes the site is faster and smoother, buy on my iphone the site has not been updated since I downloaded the improved app, anyone else had the acme problem.

  • Comment number 41.

    Re: Tony Blair
    Just how big is this man's ego? He took away nationalism and pride making us second class citizens. He couldn't clean up his own backyard but messed up Iraq in the meantime. He makes my blood boil.

  • Comment number 42.

    @Peter (40) To refresh the app you need to pull down on the main content area.


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