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The Guardian launches iPad app, free for three months

Following the example of The Telegraph and The Times, The Guardian has become the latest UK newspaper to make the digital leap to the iPad. If you’re already an iPad subscriber to either of the other digital papers, you might wonder why you should make the switch; the answer is the three month free trial that comes with the app – plenty of time to find out for yourself.

Using the app itself is a very smooth experience – the interface is very clean and uncluttered. The opening screen shows today’s Guardian as well as the six issues before it, which you download and read by tapping on their icons. You can download digital editions that are more than a week old by playing with the app’s settings, but by default the app will only hold seven before deleting older issues, so it doesn’t surreptitiously clog your iPad up with dozens of past newspapers.

Inside each issue you get the full content of each paper issue of The Guardian, as well as links to extra content via The Guardian’s website. There’s a scrolling carousel at the top of the app which lets you browse categories like International news, Sport, Finance, Editorials and Comment, and tapping through to each of these displays their content in a tablet-friendly large panel display. Once you’re in an article, you can skip through to the next by dragging your finger across the screen, the same way you turn pages in apps like Amazon’s Kindle and Flipboard. Sometimes this is less responsive than we’d like, and the movement has to be very deliberate, but it’s a small criticism and hopefully just a teething problem that’ll receive a fix in an update.

One feature we really do like is the Day in Pictures section, which is a clear port of The Guardian’s beautiful Eyewitness app. As in the original, this section is a page of sometimes-relevant-sometimes-just-pretty photographs displayed again in panels. Tapping them blows the images up full screen and furnishes them with a couple of lines of background info, and subjects range between everything from nature to international culture to war photography – it’s a standout feature.

There are a handful of niggles with the app, first among them that the subscription – whether free or paid – doesn’t include The Observer, The Guardian’s Sunday edition, meaning Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell et al. are as yet absent from The Guardian’s iPad edition. However, unlike The Times, The Guardian’s website has no paywall, so the Observer columns are all still available that way to those that regularly follow them.

Another problem is that whilst according to the FAQ the app also supports video content, after panning through several issues we were damned if we could find any. Either we’re doing something wrong or video content is coming at a future date. Either way, The Guardian say it’s going to be a feature, so we’ll take them at their word for now. Changing the font size also isn’t an option at the moment, but the app’s FAQ section notes that this is something The Guardian team are working to add in the near future.

Once the free three month trial expire, you’ll need to sign up to a £9.99 per month subscription to keep receiving issues, bringing the Guardian’s iPad edition in line with The Times and The Telegraph’s monthly iPad subscription charges. If you’ve so far resisted ditching your broadsheet in favour of an iPad edition, The Guardian’s iPad edition might just change your allegiance, and once your free subscription runs out in three months time the £9.99 digital subscription is still an £18 saving on a subscription to the Guardian’s print edition, which will run you £27.99 a month by comparison.

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