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Financial Times Doesn’t Implement iOS Subscriptions, Launches HTML5 Web App

In spite of earlier reports claiming that the Financial Times was still negotiating with Apple over the implementation of app subscriptions for newspapers, the publication has announced today the availability of a new HTML5 web app built to fully take advantage of the iPhone and iPad unique capabilities. As Apple has started requiring developers and publishers to use subscriptions in their apps with recurring payments, asking to give away a 30% cut off every transaction, the Financial Times stated multiple times in the past a deal couldn’t be negotiated with Apple unless the company changed its terms. The Financial Times said the app “could go somewhere else” hinting at a native application for Android devices, though in today’s press release the FT clearly states the browser-based app was developed with iOS Safari in mind, with optimized versions for other Android devices and BlackBerry PlayBook coming in the next months. FT has even posted a lengthy FAQ on the difference between native apps and HTML5 here.

As for the app itself, it’s pretty slick and can be accessed for free during launch week, but a subscription will be required to read more than 10 articles a month once the promo is over. For as much as the web app comes with its perks like automatic updates and browser access, when using it on my iPhone 4 I noticed performances were far from “fast”, even after increasing the database size like the app suggested. Text takes a while to render sharply on the iPhone’s screen, images are slow to download and scrolling isn’t of course as smooth as a native app. I’m sure some of these problems are related to the fact that the web app just went live and perhaps the FT needs to re-optimize everything, but I wonder if the average reader will notice the aforementioned issues when comparing the web-based FT with any app from Apple’s iOS 5 Newsstand. However, I’m impressed by the design of the app on the iPad, the menus and buttons implemented by the developers, and the rich content made of photos and videos available through a web browser. Performance problems aside, the FT surely has dropped a well-design app that doesn’t require Apple’s approval.

This is our best app yet, and it is an important step in our strategy of providing multi-channel access to our global journalism quickly and simply,” said John Ridding, CEO of the Financial Times. “The FT Web App offers our customers flexibility and freedom of choice with access to our global journalism anytime, anywhere, with a single login or subscription. In a world of increasingly digital complexity we want to keep our service simple, easy to use and efficient to offer our customers the best possible experience of FT journalism.

Other features include:

  • Reading offline – saving a shortcut to your home screen so you can read it offline, at any time, just like one of our existing apps
  • Web browser access – no download needed
  • All access – one registration or subscription will offer customers access to FT content through a range of devices or on a PC
  • Speed – the new app offers improved performance
  • Automatic updates – instant product improvements with no need to download new versions of the app
  • Specific to smartphones – a completely new and improved design, inclusion of images and FT video content, a new currency converter
  • Specific to tablets – new content from FT Blogs

The new Financial Times web app is available here. Check out the official promo video below.

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