One of the most trusted sources of news just made it easier for its Filipino subscribers to be in the know via their smartphone or tablet. In partnership with Sven Ingenuity Inc., the Philippine Star recently released a mobile app where users can learn about the latest Philippine events. You can download it for free in iOS and Android.
To make this review, I installed the PhilStar app on my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 android phone. Like what most would wonder upon running an app for the first time, I speculated if the app is any good at all. As it is still in its infancy, glitches and limitations in features are apparent. Nevertheless, the app is capable of delivering the latest Philippine news, one essential feat that Philippine Star loyalists can truly appreciate. An augmented reality feature is also included in the app, allowing news and photos in the paper’s printed edition to come to life.
Interface & Design
The first thing you’ll notice when you open the app is its use of the publication’s signature blue-and-yellow color. The interface is simple and allows you to immediately read the content right after the latest issue is downloaded. At the top is the title bar that displays the Philippine Star logo, the current date, the weather, and the LiveIt! button (discussed further below). Below it are tabs for sections where articles are organized into, such as News, Opinion, Sports, etc. There are buttons at the sides to scroll and view more tabs, although they are rather clunky and swiping left and right does the same job anyway so they are pretty much not that useful.
Right below the tabs are buttons for Top Stories, settings and bookmarks. Despite appearing like a normal text, the first really is a button that, when tapped, displays the most viewed content. The settings, on the other hand, let you rearrange the tabs, change the article font style, and more. Finally, the bookmarks button shows a list of your favorite articles.
The list of stories is what takes up the most space of your device’s screen. If the content displayed is outdated, or if no content is displayed at all, you can simply swipe downwards to trigger an update or refresh. Tapping on a particular story directs you to the page showing that article’s entirety.
Functionality & Performance
The fact that this app is capable of showing today’s news and stories should be enough for many Filipino news junkies. However, a couple of issues plague the app that the developers must address.
First off, there seems to be a continuous need to update the issue whenever I view tabs, stories, and my bookmarked content. Oftentimes, I’m redirected to the “Loading Issue…” screen, rendering the app unusable as it seemingly downloads the issue all over again. This is just a wild guess, but the app apparently lacks efficient syncing and offline data storage. The lack of a search button and inability to view the archive is also disappointing. Finding content can be problematic especially when you want to filter articles on certain keywords or topics or when you want to read older stories.
In its entirety, the app is a basic reader for accessing the latest content published by the Philippine Star. That’s about it. To be honest, the interface could really use a major overhaul. Many of the buttons appear blurry, there is no landscape mode for reading articles, and crashes and freezing happen from time to time.
For anyone asking why the app lacks videos for viewing, that’s where Live It! comes in. It’s the augmented reality feature that lets users access exclusive videos that complement the articles in the printed edition of the Philippine Star. Recent circulations of the paper come with photos marked with the Live It! badge, which users can scan to make the paper more interactive.