The Baltimore Sun news app for the Android platform is a must-have download for people who live in Baltimore, Md., and perhaps even the District of Columbia, but it isn't an especially helpful resource for those of us who don't.
If you live in the Baltimore area, you should definitely give this app a try. The app has a very classy, simple and clean design. It isn't much, black text on white, but the main menu's THE BALTIMORE SUN banner at the top of the screen, the colored strip that describes exactly what section you're looking at and then the single scrolling page of headlines is a very effective way to organize information. The headlines are stacked atop each other, but in such a way that it doesn't clutter the screen.
Tap the "News: Top Stories" button at the bottom of your screen, and you can switch to a new category of information. There's "News: Top Stories," "Baltimore Breaking News," "Traffic, Getting There Driving Blog," "Obituaries," "Nation/World" and "Weird News."
For even more sections, hit the white button in the left corner of the screen. After you're brought to a brand new menu, tap on "Sections," and you can search through headlines by even more specific topics. There are at least a dozen different categories of news including health, business, weather and sports blogs, for instance.
This menu has a bunch of other options. "Breaking News" is what you might expect, a feed of up-to-the-minute news alerts. "Photos" features both photos from the most current edition of the Baltimore Sun and tons of photos that have been uploaded by readers. The "Twitter" button takes users to a sort of pre-set-up Twitter feed. You are already set up to follow the tweets of not just the Baltimore Sun's news and various staff writer's Twitter accounts, but also other news blogs and community papers.
"Favorites" allows readers to keep their favorite photos, stories and blog posts for as long as they like. Once content is saved, it stays on the app until the reader decides to remove it. The "Settings" button takes you to a menu where you can tweak your font size, reorder sections by preference, and manage your Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Because this app is so well-organized, easy to use and free, it's perfect for when you have a spare minute.
How readers should pay for their news content in the digital age is an ongoing issue. While the media needs to be paid, I find it interesting that the Baltimore Sun charges people for its app, when other major, popular news sources, like the New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and the Guardian do not. It's just a one-time fee of $1.99, though, which seems like an extremely low cost for really great news coverage.
This app has tons of local community resources, which I can see being very helpful to the people who live there. However, in terms of its national/world news, I didn't see anything here that set the Baltimore News ahead of the curve in terms of competition with other papers.
Unless you're from this area, this isn't a must-have app, by any stretch, as there are tons of other more comprehensive sources out there to choose from.