Easy FT on the iPhone

The Financial Times has joined the growing group of media companies offering an easy means for readers and subscribers to access the newspaper’s online content from wherever they happen to be via a bespoke app for the iPhone.

Today the FT launched its new FT mobile app for iPhone (iTunes link) that combines clean and fast access to FT.com content with the iPhone’s oh-so-easy user interface.

And a pretty experience it is, too, as this Animoto video at YouTube that I made from screenshots suggests.

I downloaded and installed the app early today from the App Store and ran through all it offers: FT news, comment and analysis, markets data, currency converter and access to your stock portfolios (you have to set these up on the FT.com website first).

If you’re an FT subscriber, you have full access to FT content, much as you do at the FT.com website. So when you load the app, you log in using your same credentials as you use for the website. Couldn’t be easier.

If you’re not a subscriber, then you have similar access to content as you do currently at the website: three stories a month and access to markets data without having to register. Wired magazine thinks this is a bad deal, calling the app “severely crippled trialware.” Well, I’m a paying subscriber to FT.com (and so probably a bit biased), but I think it’s a great deal: there are plenty of other choices for financial news if you don’t want to register or pay to subscribe.

The FT’s approach is different to that of the Wall Street Journal’s iPhone app, launched in April, the one I would tend to think of as a comparison (possibly because I used to subscribe to the Journal as well as the FT). In my experience, the WSJ blocks you with the subscriber firewall on the website if you’re not a subscriber but lets you access pretty much all content on the iPhone.

So if it’s business- and financial-oriented news and information you want on your iPhone (or iPod Touch) when you’re out and about, you’re now spoiled for choice with the FT’s app as well as apps from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg.

iphone-ft iphone-wsj

iphone-reuters iphone-bloomberg

To me, though, this is about affinities. News is the same everywhere; it’s one person’s or brand’s take on that news or other information that’s likely to make you favour one source over another – and possibly pay for access to it.

I like the FT for its columnists and other bespoke content that I can’t get anywhere else. I can imagine many FT users will love the scope and scale of financial information in this iPhone app – something none of the others offers to the same extent – presented so attractively and usefully, as well as being able to manage your stock portfolios from wherever and whenever you happen to be.

By the same token, I like the WSJ for it’s very American approach to its reporting as well as unique content (and on the iPhone, its video and audio reports as well as being able to save bookmarks to favourite content – something the FT doesn’t yet offer).

Last week, I was able to get a look at the app pre-launch thanks to Steve Pinches, Lead Product Development Manager at FT.com (and thanks to Drew Benvie and Ben Matthews of 33 Digital who set up our meeting).

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Over a pleasant lunch (in a rather noisy restaurant), Steve walked me through the app and I recorded our conversation – you can listen to it here with the in-page Flash player at the top of the page, or download the MP3 (6.3Mb, 13:41)

Listening again to the recording, I jotted down these key words I noted from that conversation:

development, user research, navigation, content caching, no-furniture screen reading, news functionality, stock charts, everything on FT.com is here, market data, tear sheets, pinch and zoom charts, investor tools, 20-minute delay, Blackberry version to be developed, open up new user base, free app, same access rules as FT.com, portfolio one of most-requested features, currency converter.

In that conversation, you’ll hear Steve clearly position the FT’s app against Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg. Not the WSJ, you’ll note.

And when I asked Steve to highlight in a succinct, pithy phrase what the prime benefit of the FT’s iPhone app would be, he says:

Everything you need to know about business when you’re out of the office.

A pretty good description.

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About Neville Hobson

Entrepreneurial business communicator with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Co-host of the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Also an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.