The Daily: USA Today for iPad

Spoiler alert!As a magazine designed for the iPad, the Daily is pretty slick. It works best when you shut down every other app and perform a hard reboot, but most features work just fine all the time.

First of all, I want to follow up on Thursday’s review of the ZAGGmate keyboard with a couple of problems I noticed after constant use over a week. I will add this to the post but for readers who have already been there I thought I would mention a couple of snags. First, the two soft rubber strips on either side of the iPad stand collect dust and need more than frequent cleaning.

This is livable unless you have a serious dust phobia. The real problem is the recessed keyboard. If you type properly with your hands elevated, you wont even notice, but if you’re a relaxed typist who likes to rest the base of your palm on the table surface, your palms will chafe against the raised edges of the case. It’s not enough to make me change the rating, but it puts the keyboard right on the bubble between making biscuits and best buy. So I’m going to say it should be a best buy unless your hands chafe easily.

I also feel compelled to comment on Mike Huckabee and Natalie Portman. Probable Presidential candidate Huckabee is coming under flack for allowing himself to slide into a Sarah Palin moment by criticizing Portman for deciding to have a child out of wedlock before winning her academy award. Now people are jumping on the bandwagon to criticize him because he praised Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol for making the same decision (without an academy award, but with her mother’s VP nomination on the line).

In Huckabee’s defense, Portman clearly got pregnant to sway her peers in the academy. Had Mila Kunis showed up with a glow and a slightly bulging baby she would have taken the gold instead. Portman knew that conservative Hollywood voters are suckers for old-fashioned family values and figured a baby would seal the deal.

Not just a baby, but an unborn baby because God and conservative voters know an unborn baby is more precious than someone who has passed through the birth canal and could turn liberal or collect health care on our tax dollars.

But there are some major differences between Bristol and Portman.1 Bristol had her baby for Jesus. Portman just had sex. Portman danced bleeding heart artsy fartsy ballet in a Hollywood movie promoting the homosexual agenda. Bristol danced on Dancing With the Stars, which is second to American Idol in embracing American family values.

So I say, go for it, Mike Huckabee. If you keep on emulating Sarah Palin I know a lot 0f Democrats who will be rooting for you in the 2012 primaries. Or you could start touring with Charlie Sheen.

This brings me to The Daily, the newest iPad ready publication being heavily hyped on iTunes, in the App Store and several other places. When I was reading The Daily Saturday I learned that Charlie Sheen has made himself the newest ambassador to Haiti and that he will make the world aware their plight.

Because nobody knew how bad things were down there.

The Daily added that Sirius XM added an all new 24-hour Charlie ? Sheen news channel, Tiger Blood Radio. It also informed me that male sperm count is at an all-time low (“hooray,” shout green and population activists) and that higher luggage fees mean a higher tax bill.

If it sounds like I’m mocking The Daily, I’m not. It just strikes me more as a digital USA today than a digital New York Times. Or perhaps a digital Good Morning America: some hard news, more features and entertainment, frequent advertising. The content is all purpose, but I’m not really going to grade it out content. I just say this because serious news junkies aren’t likely to replace their news feeds with The Daily.

All the news that’s fit to display

The Daily stands apart because it really is the magazine designed for the iPad interface. This may be because the developers waited to see what other news services would do before launching this app. Where they make their mark is by taking the extra step of emulating print display with a truly interactive interface.

This is a real magazine

Every other news app I’ve looked at displays their articles web style, where design and layout have to take a back seat to bandwidth and HTML/CSS limitations. The Daily offers a really good-looking read with full display photos and inset captions, full page ads, and super crisp typography. It has the feel of the high-quality glossy magazines.

It also has the advantage of being disposable. Like Newsweek and Times, you won’t feel the need to fill your library with back issues. None of the articles are reference quality, they’re designed to entertain. On the other hand, you won’t have the choice to keep back issues because there’s no archiving feature that I could find. Tomorrow morning a brand new issue will appear with brand new articles, wiping away the articles that downloaded the day before.

The Daily provides a crisp magazine style display that’s far easier to read than web style displays.

The Daily can deliver more than a magazine, however, precisely because they aren’t print. Each issue includes video clips, automatic jumps to YouTube and even music by pop stars such as Britney Spears. Okay, music by Britney doesn’t exactly send me rushing to open an issue, but if their readership expands they might even take a cue from the Grammy’s and pass over Justin Bieber for songs by Esperanza Spalding. Or Janelle Monáe.

Who knows?They might even one day provide clips from the Met’s HD opera broadcasts. But I doubt it.

On days that they work, The Daily delivers fairly sharp high quality video with a fast stream. You may have to close all your apps and do a hard reboot to get them to play, but when they do, they’re really sharp and bright. This video, however, played back with several apps running in the background.

They have sports, sudoku and even reviews and video previews of hip games. They cover 3D graffiti and profile distilleries such as Buffalo Trace bourbon. I prefer bourbons with more spice and kick, or better yet, unblended single malt scotch, but the Buffalo trace article was pretty good. The only thing they seem to lack is black and white single panel cartoons.

I should point out that The Daily seems to be as fair and balanced as Fox News. Whenever they provide credentials for opinion pieces, the political commentary seems to come from conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise and Hoover Institutes. For readers who like the Huffington Post, Slate or the arch-enemy of conservatives everywhere, the uber-liberal NPR, this may get wearying. Glenn Beck fans will feel right at home, although they do tone down the rhetoric.

The slickest interface this side of the iPad

A popup menu allows you to jump from section to section or scrub through the pages with a video playback bar.

To be honest, The Daily understands digital delivery even better than they understand real news. You can browse each issue in just about every way imaginable. You can browse from page to page just like you can with the major ebook readers. You can navigate with a video-style scrubber, jump through sections with a popup menubar, or use the iTunes style page browser at the bottom of the page.

The Daily also incorporates an iTunes style page browser to allow you to flip quickly through the pages. You even get the current temperature.

You can archive individual pages by emailing them to yourself as attachments, but, as I said earlier, there are better reference quality articles that can be archived on the web. You can also post comments to Facebook and Twitter.

That being said, The Daily still has a few holes it needs to fill.

No search

If you want to go back and find an article you already read, there is no quick search feature to let you find it using a simple phrase such as “Charlie Sheen” or “Britney.” Since the articles don’t always fit into neat categories you may have to browse through several sections to find the article again.

Variable video quality

I checked video on three different days. The most recent experience was the best, but that time I closed down every app and did a hard reboot. The quality seemed to vary from good to pixelated depending on the day, and I couldn’t play back any of the videos in one issue.

Long download time

It takes a really long time to download each issue. Really long. Like waiting for a Mac with two dozen start-ups apps to boot. I feel compelled to point this out because the main reason I bought my iPad was to have a device that could boot immediately and get me on the web.

You have to pay

The Daily will be offered on a complimentary basis for another couple of weeks, so download it and read a couple of issues while you can. I stress this because I’m reviewing the complimentary issues. My review might be far less favorable if I had to pay for it.

If you like general interest magazines, The Daily has a lot to offer. It’s a decent read for the dentist’s office, riding the bus or sitting in the bathroom. If you’re reading needs fit into a more specific, news or commentary oriented niche, the content may not be as compelling.

Jenny Manytoes rates The Daily

Jenny Manytoes would purr next to The Daily. She would make biscuits for the eye candy and take a nap when it came time to read.

Content aside, it’s a slick and good looking read. But I’m not sure it’s worth the subscription price, especially when there are so many other good free news apps.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.
1Did you notice how I subtly framed my case by referring to Bristol (to give you the warm fuzzies with a first name reference) and Portman (to depersonalize her and make her easier to criticize)? It’s a trick I picked up from Fox Commentators.back

Contact me at Email iPad Envy, or
Email The Hidden Grimoire.


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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