Friday, November 28, 2014

That new free Washington Post app on Kindle Fire HD/HDX tablets - what happens after 6 months? and other details. A couple of Fire OS update feature tidbits for older HD/HDX tablets. Updated for tip on getting larger text displays with Screen Magnifier setting.

The new Washington Post app for Kindle Fire HD/HDX tablet owners exclusively (for now)

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, bought the Washington Post with his own money in early 2013, so it's not really a surprise to see the new Washington Post app that's been added to the apps store (which already has the less-colorful Washington Post Classic app.

  Kindle Fire HD and HDX tablet owners have free, unlimited access to articles on this app for 6 months, and the app will be available for Android and iOS tablets next year (which isn't far away).

  I've used it for a few days now and am really enjoying it.  I also subscribe to the e-Ink reader version of the NY Times Latest News, which has about 7-10 headline news stories in full each day, with updated versions through the day, for $1.99/month.

I don't review many products at the Amazon customer reviews page, and when I do, it's usually only because I really like the product or, rarely, when I want to caution others about problems.

  I did write an Amazon review for this app and will include my review in this blog article.  There's high interest in what happens after the 6 months is over, and the review covers that also, so here's my initial take on this new feature.

  (By the way, as mentioned earlier, older Kindle Fire HD and HDX tablets are getting a Fire OS software update that includes new features first seen in the current Fire tablets, and I really like that, while using an app, I can swipe right-edge-to-left to see the other apps that I can just switch to that way.  And now I see that 'Firefly' is on it ... just tried it on a less-known CD and it worked instantly.  I'll write more on the updates this weekend.)

From my review at Amazon:
Am editing this to move subscription info to the top after seeing high interest in what happens after the first 6 months. I'd found their explanation under Settings/Frequently asked Questions. It explains that it's free for 6 months, and then AFTER that, there'll be an OPTION to continue for another 6 months for $1 for the entire *additional* 6 months if we decide to subscribe afterward. So, no automatic opt-in after the first 6 months.

... If we do choose to purchase the optional *additional* 6 months for $1 payment at the Amazon apps store, this action will automatically opt us into a full-price subscription after the 2nd 6-month term is completed, which will be $3.99 per month.

I like the layout. Quality images in high-resolution head the full-text, meaty articles in easy-to-read, well-spaced text - an especially clean look in comparison to most news apps. There are usually additional photos and apparently sometimes a video although I haven't run into one in my two days of quick browsing. Am reading with an older Kindle Fire HDX and have no speed problems.

You get morning and evening editions, "with updates for major breaking stories."

I especially like the responsive pinch-zoom in and out. You can change the layout, that way, between one- and two-page reading and enlarge a story for eyes that require larger print, with great control over the size of photos and text.

You can save articles (tap the ribbon tab at top right) and the saved articles will be listed at the bottom of the table of contents at the left (accessed with the Menu icon or a swipe from left).  However, since the edition changes at least twice a day, I'd save a story if you don't have time to read it right away, as some stories will be dropped as new ones come in. Saved articles can still be read after the issue has been replaced with the current one. A great feature.

If you like a lead photo, you can tap it to select it and tap it again to isolate it and even do a screenshot to save it for personal use. You can pinch-zoom other photos to see them even more clearly, since the quality of images is fantastic.

Each time you open the app, you get today's news, in the current edition, so that solves any storage problem, as a graphics-heavy daily newspaper app is of course very large. (This will be somewhat slower-loading on the Yr 2012 models.)

There are of course ads, as with paper newspapers, but the ads don't interfere with story space and are separate, at intervals.

Very easy to navigate, and it's fast, smooth, and beautiful. Kudos to the app developers.

The NY Times app option to read more than 10 articles a month is currently $20/mo., so I personally find the $4/mo. after the first year, for all articles, a decent price.

If you're an avid news reader, or even a light one (it's well-organized for quick access to categories of interest), this is a no-brainer, for at least the first 6 months.

Suggestion to developers: A somewhat darker font would be easier on the eyes that are often already fixed on LCD screens for hours. Grayish text is 'in' but Black fonts give more contrast, more like a book or newspaper.

Additional tip for screen displays when wanting even larger font
You can go into Settings/Accessibility and choose to turn Screen Magnifier to ON.

Then you can quickly tap 3 times on the display when the largest text size isn't quite large enough for you.  You'll see a blue border that'll indicate you're in Screen Magnifier mode.

That will magnify that area. And at that point, you can pinch zoom with two fingers to enlarge or reduce the area and scroll from left to right.  The 3 quick taps are position-sensitive, so you can tap at the left if you want info from the left margin to definitely be shown first in resulting enlargement. Same idea for right-margin text, although the easiest thing is to 3-tap in the middle and then pinch-zoom in and out.

When you want to go back to normal view, tap quickly 3 times again (or turn the tablet to portrait mode if you're in landscape orientation -- and of course vice versa).

I use this a lot for fixed screens where double-taps don't lead you to max enlargement (as can be done with browser screens).

Check often: Temporarily-free recently published Kindle books
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.  Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.

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  1. I agree that the permanent price is a steal!. My WSJ subscription just renewed for $300/year. NYT is $240/year, and my Economist digital access is $100/year. Washington Post at $50/year is practically a no brainer. I like the layout on my HDX 8.9. Looks like Bezos is doing good things for the Post. And if you're a political junkie, then the Post is a must have.

    1. Edward, yes, I think that's as reasonable as it gets.
      As for the layout, I'm even using the Settings/Accessibility/Screen Magnifier option. 3 quick taps, and you get an even larger version of text (especially on a fixed-fontsize page) which you can pinch zoom to reduce or enlarge further.

      Doing the tapping at various points on the display determines positioning before zooming in/out. Then quickly tap 3 times to go back to normal layout size (or rotate the tablet to either Portrait or Landscape to get to normal setting).

      I mean to get back to you on your Echo feedback...later this weekend. Thanks!

    2. Completely agree with Edward. I am subscribed to WSJ and NYT. There is no gain in subscribing for WP

  2. Do we really need a Washington Post app with a free subscription? I can't recall ever being blocked from a Post story. To access a NY Times story, all you need to do is enter the title as a Google search and click on the link.

    Yes, maybe reading the Post and Times, as in front-to-back, requires a subscription, but I wouldn't won't to waste that much time on either. The only thing more deplorable than getting all one's opinions from the NYT, is getting them from the NPR. The latter often pick up the Boston brahmin intonation of NPR's reporters when they talk politics. Sad.

  3. With Screen Magnifier turned on, triple-tap-and-hold ('quick magnify') magnifies and lets you pan by dragging your finger, then when you lift your finger, it returns to normal view mode. While the pan mode seems 'backwards' (moving finger right pans left etc.) it is what you'd want as you can thereby view the entire page regardless of where your finger initially tapped on. With triple tap without hold, zoomed in, you need to pan with two fingers (or swipe with one finger to go to adjacent page without leaving zoom mode). I think this is all standard Android stuff.

    The downside is that Screen Magnifier disables the 'double-tap to zoom an image to full screen' feature in the reading app. This is a regression from Fire OS 4.1.x and earlier, I believe (though I no longer have means to verify this). It is probably some change in Android since it applies on my Android phone (KitCat) but not on my Android tablet (Ice Cream Sandwich). Still I hope Amazon can fix the reading app so that both features are enabled.

    WaPo app does have font adjustment (cycles through 5 sizes by tapping 'A' in toolbar), and supports Explore By Touch (for reading out text paragraph by paragraph).

    1. Thanks, Tom, for the 'quick magnify' option. I use the regular 3-tap Screen Magnifier to get beyond the double tap's maximum dsplay so I don't care if double-tap is disabled while I'm using it.

      For The Washington Post, a *single* article-display, if triple-tapped doesn't allow you to see all the words, so I start from two-story display mode and 3-tap and then I can zoom in and out and reduce it to a text-display that DOES allow me to see the full text in large fonts and wrapped the way I want. (So, I don't do that from the single-story-display mode.) When I want to go back to normal mode I either do the quick-3-tap or I just rotate the device to either Landscape or Portrait.

      For WaPo I've chosen the largest font. Accessibility settings Explore by Touch with Screen Reader is what you're describing for reading out text paragraph by paragraph ?

      I must say I really enjoyed exploring "Back story" today which has articles from the last week or more to give more context to a current story.


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