The Guardian newspaper gets Spotify-ed, launches iPhone app with off-line browsing

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offline140[UK] The Guardian has launched its long awaited iPhone app, which is designed to give a better reading experience on Apple’s iconic device than the UK newspaper’s standard desktop or mobile offering.

The app isn’t isn’t free, however, unlike most of The Guardian’s content, costing a one-off payment of £2.39 for which readers will be spared ads (for now) and get a raft of smartphone-optimized features. These include basic customisation of the newspaper’s ‘front page’, support for audio, and perhaps most notable, off-line browsing – although early App Store reviews suggest that the app is still a little buggy and lacks some obvious social media functionality.

guardian-iphoneThe headline feature of off-line browsing works in a similar way to music streaming service Spotify’s own iPhone app. Sections of the newspaper can be ‘cached’ in advance to enable access when outside of a WiFi network or mobile signal. As with listening to music, this is particularly appropriate for reading a newspaper on-the-go, such as when commuting on London’s Underground or any other subway for that matter. The app also offers access to the various Guardian podcasts, which can be downloaded in advance or streamed.

Photo galleries can be navigated with a swipe of the finger as well as viewed in full screen. Favourite articles can be ‘starred’ for later reference, Gmail-style. And in a nod towards individual writers as brands in themselves, readers can browse by author. The app also makes heavy use of tagging to help readers discover related content. All in all it’s quite an ambitious first attempt and, I’d suggest, gives a glimpse into what accessing a digital version of a newspaper might be like on the much-rumored Apple tablet (see video below).

That said, there are notable omissions, such as the option to share links via Twitter, or the ability to highlight, copy and paste portions of text – perhaps this is intentional? One early App Store review is also reporting stability issues with regards to the app’s killer feature, off-line browsing.

As for the price, even though rival UK newspaper offerings for the iPhone remain free (The Telegraph and The Independent), The Guardian’s app offers some unique and potentially compelling features, and of course is ad-free. That’s unlikely to remain the case for ever though as a one-off payment clearly isn’t sustainable.

Moving forward, The Guardian has a number of choices. Keep improving the app and charge users for each major upgrade. Move to a subscription model, utilising Apple’s in-app purchasing for the iPhone. Or introduce ads (The Telegraph’s iPhone app is heavily sponsored by companies such as Dell and Cisco). The newspaper’s head of mobile products, Jonathon Moore, isn’t ruling out the latter, reports paidContent UK.

  • Jonathon Moore

    Hi – I’m the product guy behind the app. Thanks for your coverage – just to clarify you ***can*** share via Facebook – but not Twitter – yet! Thanks again.


    • Steve O'Hear

      Hey Jon,

      Thanks for stopping by. I’ve updated the post. Nice work.

      – Steve

      • Jonathon Moore

        Thanks Steve – and for the article too.

  • Peter C

    what a strange headline. i don’t think people associate spotify with that offline feature. i think when people read the word spotify they think of ad supported free content.

    • Steve O'Hear

      Have you used the Spotify iPhone app or the one for Android or Symbian? I’ve tested all three and ff-line playback, caching playlists, is the killer feature or one of them – syncing playlists across multiple devices – mobile, desktop – is another.

      You don’t get mobile or off-line playback on Spotify’s free ad-supported version.

  • Patrick DAlton Harrison

    Just downloaded it.
    The price makes it an impulse buy far as I’m concerned.

    Works really well, looks great on the screen.
    Only point is that you can edit content, so that the order changes. But can’t find a way to remove whole sections for good.

    Want to remove the Sports section, as sport does not count as news to me – noise.

    If anyone knows how to do it please reply.

    Otherwise v.good.
    Makes the screen look “lickable” and navigation simple.

    Also, like the way columnists are all on a separate page – so they can be duly ignored.

    Overall, lovely piece of work.

  • Patrick DAlton Harrison

    Ok, scrub the Sports comment – just drag and drop it away. Much quicker than throwing the Sports section in the recycling bin at home.

    Bye bye newsprint…

  • Mark


    Can i use this app and access all content outside the UK?

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    I’ll like to market it in Nigeria but I would need to have one as a sample first

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