A few weeks ago, I reviewed the iPad version of USA Today on our sister site iPad.Appstorm, stating that the latest version of the app was really well designed, feature-rich, and user-friendly. I also made mention of the fact that I don’t use too many news apps, instead opting for a news organization’s Twitter feed or the like. However, I use more news/feed apps on my Nexus 7 than on my iPad — Press, anyone? — and USA Today has a brand new app for Android that’s fantastic.
USA Today is a US-based newspaper and one of my favorite print outlets. Over the last year or so, they’ve really upped their digital game, releasing a brand new website, redesigned iOS app, and now a newly designed Android app.
USA Today’s Top Stories
To be frank, the first USA Today Android app was pretty bad. It was poorly designed, felt rushed, and looked more like a mid-2000s mobile website. The latest version is a much welcomed departure from that. You can tell the developers put a lot of effort into perfecting the interface, utilizing screen space and adding some really useful features. They also took into account some Android-only capabilities, like the share button and the ability to long-press for more options.
Upon opening the app, you’re taken to Top Stories, where you’ll see the day’s most popular/recent stories, images, and videos. While viewing a story, you can also swipe through images associated with that story or view its related video, as shown below.
Watch a video
You will also see the weather in the top right — more on that later. Selecting a story will allow you to read, interact with the media, and swipe to another news item. The app also has some nice instructional screens when you go to a new section for the first time.
Pressing the USA Today logo will take you to a menu of all of the sections USA Today has to offer, as well as auxiliary content for those sections. The “News” section even has an area for trending stories. At the time this article was written, it was the Pope’s resignation.
News and Life Menus
There are also specialized areas in the other news sections. As you can see, in Life there is a Celebrities photos area, and categories for music, movies, TV, and books. The Opinion section has editorial cartoons, Travel has a Destinations sub-section, and so on. There is also a poll for each section.
The extra areas are really what make this app great. Not only can you get the latest news, but things like weather, scores, polls, photos, and more.
The Weather section is a really nice, feature-rich area that’s very well designed.
There is a nice big box with the weather for the day, including graphics and information like high and low temperatures, sunset and sunrise times, wind speed, and more. Then there are the next nine days, both for day and night. If you have multiple cities set up, you can swipe between them as you can with news stories. There is also an interactive weather map of the area.
Interactive Weather Map
It seems the map only supports portrait mode
Another great section is the Sports scores area, where you can get a scoreboard for all of the major sports, including MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAAB, NCAAF, and MLS.
One feature I’d really like to see added here is the ability to mark your favorite teams so you can quickly look up the scores of their games. Box score also crossed my mind, though I recognize that this isn’t a standalone sports app.
Day in Pictures
I think one of the stand-out sections in the app is Day in Pictures. The developers realized they were creating an app that supports multimedia and instead of just doing a newspaper-like clone, decided to add in some really nice features you can only do with a digital device.
Pictures from the State of the Union
While viewing the gallery of the day’s most important pictures, you can swipe through the photos and tap each one to get more information like caption, photographer, and date taken.
Other Features and Options
Throughout the app you will also see Android’s built-in Share button so you can send stories and photos to all of your favorite social networks and apps. I’m really glad more apps are using the built-in Share function now, as it creates a more consistent experience.
The Options screen is pretty standard, giving you the ability to change the text size, temperature unit, and even enable Breaking News notificiations. There is also an option for Offline Reading.
Download articles for offline reading
Offline Reading will allow you to download all of the content — articles, images, and videos — currently available in the app so that you can check it all, even without an Internet connection. I thought this was a really fantastic feature, as many tablets are Wifi-only and there are certainly people who try not to use mobile data unless necessary. USA Today’s development team did a really nice job here.
The USA Today app for Android is a beautiful, feature-rich app that is really well thought-out. It offers a lot of content in an easy-to-navigate way, it accomodates a multitude of screen sizes from phones to tablets, and there are a ton of auxiliary features like weather, scores, polls, and photos. While I would like to see a couple of features added — namely favorite teams and landscape weather maps — the app is rock-solid as it is. I strongly recommend it!