UPDATE: I should have made this more predominant, but AP is offering a limited beta of Mobile News Network for BlackBerry right now! Just head to http://bb.apnews.com and sign up.
While at CTIA, I was able to sit with some of the fine people that work for the Associated Press. After some mild cajoling, I was able to let them give me a look at their Mobile News Network for BlackBerry application. I’ve been using it for about two weeks now, so it’s time to show you some photos of MNN for BlackBerry, along with impressions.
The first thing that you should know about Mobile News Network is that it isn’t a highly customizable RSS news feed aggregator for power users like Viigo. Think of it more as the ultimate newspaper replacement for your BlackBerry, with a slick and easy-to-use interface. I think that many BlackBerry users who don’t know what ‘RSS’ means will flock to an application that provides them with properly formatted Associated Press content.
Mobile News Network for BlackBerry Impressions
– Mobile News Network is divided into 13 major news ‘bins’ which cover the major sections of a newspaper (e.g. Business, Politics, Sports) and smaller sub-categories within each bin (e.g. Baseball, Football, Soccer… etc. within the Sports bin). Selecting a bin pulls up a list of news titles and a thumbnail image. Clicking on a news title will immediately open the full-text article.
– News articles can be saved to be read later, or email shared with others. I’d like to see an eventual option where stories you had saved would be automatically mailed to your inbox, so you had the option to read them later at your desktop.
– Man, does MNN look great. It’s clean, pretty, and has a ‘newspaper’ feel to it. Both the thumbnail and larger images load quickly (especially on the BlackBerry Bold, but even on a BlackBerry Curve), and are very hi-res.
– MNN is set to grab the latest AP news stories once every 2 hours, or every 10 minutes while inside the application. However, you can fiddle with the default times to check more or less often.
– You can also configure the maximum kb and image size for the data conscious BlackBerry user.
– MNN does face some minor interface issues. Right now, navigation through sub-categories is controlled via scrollball clicks, which is simple to use, but is likely less effective than scrolling through the menu items instead (AP says they’re working on this).
– MNN will eventually be fairly customizable. Setting your home city will allow you to pull up news stories from local affiliates, and sub-categories will be catered more to your news taste (e.g. I want more Raptors basketball news, but nothing to do with tennis).
All in all, Mobile News Network is a great application for those with an interest in the latest stories from the world’s biggest global news network. Clean, quick and easy to use, I can wait until the Associated Press delivers a final version, with more features! Until then, you can participate in a closed beta by heading to: http://bb.apnews.com