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Stop the presses! AP News for iPhone is a mess

My, my. Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The Associated Press has updated the AP News app for the iPhone and iPod touch. They took a mildly aggravating program and turned it into a mass of bugs, freezes and GUI mistakes.

Let's start from the beginning. The iTunes store notified me that AP News 2.0 was available. Great idea. The older version wasn't too stable. I did the update, and it started asking questions, like 'where was I?' so the local news would kick in. I answered the question and went to the next screen. Lockup. I force-quit the app, and tried again. Blank screen, followed by a slow return to the iPhone home screen. Tried again. Same result. And so on.

Deleted the app, and then reloaded it again. Got past the location screen, and then was presented with endless options to configure the news I wanted. If the iPhone screen didn't scroll, this list would have extended all the way to the floor. I'll bet I missed some important news while I was fiddling with that screen.

Anyway, it's up and running. The GUI is not improved. Instead of getting the top national news stories I get a mixture of national, local, wacky and other stuff that it defaults to. I liked the old way where I got a whole scrollable screen of top national news. Now I get 2 stories before the other stuff shows up. You can change this setting, but no more than 5 stories in any category. Not exactly a tribute to free choice.

There are a lot of new features, mostly about customizing this app. You can now see stories in landscape mode, but here's a good one. The story lists won't work in landscape, only the individual stories, so you are constantly changing the orientation of the phone. You can localize the app to crash in Spanish or French, which I guess is an improvement. It also says there are major increases to stability. Really? This thing is a bug-fest.

Amazingly, the AP support page notes that many people will have trouble installing the app, and to download it again with WiFi. Hey, how about making a proper installer so I don't have to do that? Gee whiz.

I don't think the people who developed this app have much of an idea about how people consume news, or how to make a simple and useful interface for controlling it. Judging from the reviews this new app is getting, it might be time for the AP to go back to the drawing board and start again.

Frankly, if you like this update, it will be news to the rest of us.

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