The Financial Times iPad Edition is free – just download it from the App Store and install it. It’s in the US, UK and many other country-stores. Using it is free until the end of July – that’s over two months from now – thanks to sponsorship from Swiss watch maker Hublot. The price of such freedom is Hublot ads sprinkled around the app (making the iPad version a little reminiscent of the printed paper version with its ads). After that, access will be under the terms of the FT’s iPad access model.
It was the first time I’ve spent more than just a few minutes with an iPad: I actually had this FT test iPad – a 32-gig wifi model the FT acquired in the US – for a little over three days before a courier picked it up on Friday afternoon and it went to a journalist reviewer. It’s amazing how quickly you get into a habit-of-use with an iPad. Maybe it was because of the FT focus, I’m not sure, but I found myself very easily getting used to firing up the iPad in the kitchen in the early morning as I made a pot of tea, and starting to read the FT as I waited the five minutes or so for the tea to mash.
It’s a very different experience to doing a similar thing with my 16"-widescreen laptop, or more likely, with the iPhone (using the FT iPhone app) or HTC Desire (accessing the FT mobile website) and their tiny (by comparison) screens.
The iPad screen – not far off the dimensions of an A4 sheet of paper – is perfect for reading online newspapers. Books, too for that matter, comparable with (perhaps superior to) a Kindle or other e-reader.
Reading the FT in usual portrait mode is a natural experience. The screen shows a huge amount of content, avoiding constant scrolling. You can get a good sense of that in this Animoto video on YouTube I made from the photos and screenshots I took of the FT iPad.
If you prefer, see the static pics on Flickr.
Some initial impressions:
- From a branding and brand-recognition point of view, there’s no question that this is a Financial Times product. It looks just like the printed newspaper: design, typography, layout, etc.
- On a wifi connection, the app is fast-loading, a matter of about five seconds, although I expect this will be influenced by network and FT server speeds.
- Navigating the content on the iPad is quick and easy via stroking the screen vertically or horizontally. Tapping the top of the page produces a content menu so you can go directly to content that interests you – see the video or pics for examples and check out the FT’s video.
- Viewing the pop-up market data charts and graphs is great in close proximity on the iPad screen as you cradle the iPad in your hands or rest it on a surface, especially in landscape-viewing mode.
- Video content is excellent, fast loading and streaming. A seamless viewing experience.
- On the downside – I could find no easy ways to share content especially via Twitter.
The feature that really impressed me most of all, though, was the ability to download a complete edition of the paper and access all the content offline.
I can imagine the value of being able to get at your FT on your iPad when there’s no network connection. On a plane trip, for instance. Well, until in-flight wifi is ubiquitous anyway.
I can see it on a more prosaic level: the bus or train commute. Download the FT to your iPad while you’re having breakfast, for instance, then catch up with all that interests you even without a connection to the net while you’re on your way to the office.
Then, when you’re able to connect to the net again, just revert to the standard connected-edition mode and get updates content again.
A pretty compelling proposition, I reckon. And free until the end of July. If you’re already a paying FT subscriber (as I am), then you’ll continue to get the content as part of your subscription.
Following the iPad’s launch in the US at the beginning of April, the desirable gadget goes on sale in nine other countries – Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK – on May 28. The high level of pre-orders has produced a delivery delay: it looks like many purchasers won’t get their hands on their iPads until June 7 or later.
Meanwhile, check out the Financial Times iPad Edition. It’s in the App Store now.