News app Blancspot is truly taking advantage of iPhone 4’s retina-display and giving visual news a social twist. In addition to headlines, Blancspot ($1.99) offers specialized categories in the areas of sports, business, politics, culture, war and the environment. Within each category, users will be treated to high-resolution images displayed with a “Ken Burns”-style movement and backed with a variety of songs, available for purchase through the iTunes cart icon. To pause the image slideshow, tap the screen once, double tap to bring up the dashboard controls or swipe across to go to the next story.
You’ll only see a headline on each photo, but there’s a “Read” icon to see a short summary of whatever the news event is. Below that, you’ll find more details with tappable links that open related stories in pop-up windows. One of Blancspot’s more interesting features is the “Engage” section at the bottom of each story, which contains supplementary information and links to help readers learn more.
Blancspot relies heavily on social networking, so users with accounts will be able to share stories via email, or recommend stories to other Blancspot friends through the “Suggest” function. The “Dashboard” tab features four rows: editorial, suggestions for you from friends, your friends’ activity and “My Channel,” which displays items you’ve marked as your favorites.
But even with the gorgeous photo displays, Blancspot’s developers need to do some more work. The actual news content is rather limited when compared with other news apps, so the price point is on the high side. Blancspot offers Facebook Connect, but the content I shared never posted to my feed, even after two hours of waiting. The Twitter sharing feature wouldn’t authenticate, so I was unable to test it.
I experienced a few crashes and at one point, the story text displayed over my normal springboard background rather than on its image, making the information impossible to read. Every time you switch categories, you’re treated to an unnecessary slow-loading splash screen of the category’s name. Blancspot only works in landscape mode, does not offer an off option for its music and doesn’t support fast-app switching. Blancspot has potential to be useful for visual thinkers; but at its price, it’s better to wait for an update.