Guardian Daily: nice new app, shame about the upgrade

Screenshot from the Guardian's new Daily app on an iPhone.

Yesterday The Guardian published the new version of its “daily” app (which delivers the digital version of the printed Guardian and Observer newspapers, as opposed to the news app which delivers most of that and other online content including breaking news), which I’ve subscribed to for several years and which is the most economical way of getting hold of their content now given the rising costs of the print edition and the waste involved. The old app had warned of the forthcoming upgrade and offered me the chance to join their beta testing programme, which I considered but backed off from. The old iOS app only ran on the iPad; the Android version was similarly limited to tablet-sized devices rather than phones. This version will run on any iOS device and you can install it on all the devices you have. (More: Design Week, Press Gazette, the Guardian itself.)

Unfortunately, when I upgraded, I was locked out of my subscription: when I opened any article and tried to scroll down, it opened up a box inviting me to subscribe, and one of the options was “restore App Store subscription”. However, when I pressed that, nothing happened for a second or so and then it popped up a message saying there was a “verification error” and inviting me to try again; when I did, the same thing happened. I tried contacting the Guardian’s subscribers’ helpline but all I got was a voice menu system which did not include an option for problems with the app. There was a way to email a message to the developers, but it opened in Apple Mail, which I don’t use (I use MyMail) and so I could not send a message because there was no account set up. In the event I copied the address and the text into a new message on MyMail and sent it, but got no reply.

In the end, I had to cancel my existing subscription and open a new one using their new digital subscription service, which costs the same and allows me access to premium content on their website as well as the app, and there is also a “free trial” and a reduction for the first three months, which perhaps was not intended for existing subscribers but hey, if they had make sure their app worked before they published it, I’d still be paying full price and as it is my old subscription was meant to be valid until the end of this month.

So what of the new app? Well, instead of having the content in sections accessible either from a front page or a menu, all the content is off one big page and you can scroll down to get to different sections, or across to get to content within one section. I’d quite like an easier way to get to other sections than having to scroll down past every section in between; there is a bar on the left (at the top on a smartphone) which could be used for this purpose, but it’s used for a short-range weather forecast instead, and on my phone it’s for Cambridge (I’m in London) and there is no apparent way of changing this (tapping on any part of the forecast does nothing). The Share button seems to have disappeared; on the old app it was a source of intractable bugs (it was supposed to appear when there was an Internet connection, but in practice it often did not, especially if you launched the app without a connection and then connected; the article you were reading would never have the Share button), but I actually liked being able to share articles. Now, there seems to be no access to the article’s web location which means I have to open the separate Guardian News app to share. I’ve emailed them, but am not holding my breath for a response.

It’s nice-looking and seems quite smooth in operation. It’s only day two but the old app frequently failed to load new editions when the tablet was switched off; both my devices have loaded both yesterday’s and today’s editions without me needing to switch on or open the app, which is a great improvement. The old app, if I switched away from any article for more than about a second, would send you back to the beginning of it when you returned; the new app returns you to where you left off, which is very welcome. Also much appreciated is the fact that the Guardian’s website will stop bugging me to ‘contribute’ by subscribing when I already had done; I suspect those who waited until the updated version (published within hours) to get their restored subscriptions (I didn’t, so I don’t know if that bug was fixed) will still not have access to premium web content and still be getting this request when they use the website.

Also this week, I upgraded my New Statesman subscription to a paper and digital offering after the PDF version was simply discontinued without warning last month, something I had to email them to find out. The new subscription costs £12/month (rather than £10 as before) and allows me unlimited website access, which I appreciate, but I had been using the PDF almost exclusively to read the magazine before as it was much more convenient than carting around a paper edition. To be honest, I find that their customer service leaves a lot to be desired; emails I wrote them took until the end of the day in question to be responded to which lengthened by several days the time it took to get the problem sorted. Also, the subscription helpline numbers quoted on their website (020 7936 6459 and 0800 731 8496) were never answered; I had to call them to get my access to the website and app activated, which it wasn’t when I paid because my current subscription runs until the end of the month, as I found out when I found the correct number; the person on the end of the line activated it immediately which was very nice of them. So, now I have two subscriptions I can read on both my phone and my tablet, which is very convenient, although I won’t be leaving my iPad behind as it’s much easier to read a long article on that than on a phone of any size.

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