10 Popular iPad Magazines

The iPad has been hailed as a great multimedia consumption device. It has also promised to breathe new life into print magazines and newspapers. Apple's Newsstand app came out late last year. Let's see how 10 popular iPad magazines stack up.

online magazines for iPad

Do the barren shelves of the Newsstand icon sitting next to all your pretty apps bother you? Or are you an iPad magazine aficionado? I've been a fan of print magazines for years -- and an even bigger fan of digital ones. But iPad magazines, which are still evolving, differ greatly in quality, navigation and use of multimedia.

The Economist
The Economist: Just the Stories, Ma'am

Subscribers to The Economist on the iPad complain about the buggy magazine in the reviews section. They have every right to be upset considering the chunk of change they're throwing down ($130 yearly, $40 quarterly). When I bought an issue, the user guide immediately warned me about an authentication bug.

While page layouts are very clean, navigation seems terribly messy. The magazine doesn't flow from cover to cover, so you don't really have a sense of location. There's practically zero use of multimedia. But people read The Economist not for visuals but for its insightful stories, which, at least, the iPad version delivers.

Businessweek
Businessweek: A Trail Marker for the Economy

In this tumultuous economy, it's nice to have some firm footing. Businessweek on the iPad ($3 monthly, $30 yearly) is a beacon in these tough times, and I'm not just talking about great business stories. The intuitive, color-coded navigation and article/page counter lets you know exactly where you are and where you're going. It's the best I've seen on the iPad. Margins have pull-out tabs for various functions such as sharing and font re-sizing, and there's a good amount of audio and video that adds to stories yet doesn't overwhelm them.

Entertainment Weekly
Entertainment Weekly: A Buffet for the Eyes

Entertainment Weekly on the iPad ($3 monthly, $25 yearly) doesn't do a whole lot with multimedia, although a few buttons let you see movie trailers, images, and even buy products. There are occasional glitches. Navigation is super simple, just tap the bottom of the page for a menu of options.

Of any iPad magazine the Entertainment Weekly digital version feels most like the print version. Both serve up a buffet for the eyes with bits of text for context. Like National Geographic and other visually driven magazines, Entertainment Weekly on the iPad displays best for me in landscape view. (But I prefer reading long stories in the vertical view and scrolling down.)

New Yorker
New Yorker: Words, Words, Words

What are all these black-and-white words doing on my new iPad with Retina display? The New Yorker magazine ($6 monthly, $60 yearly) has stayed true to its literary storytelling mission even on the iPad. Navigation is as simple and clean as a Hemingway sentence. The New Yorker's use of type and white space makes words easy on the eyes. The magazine also has video, pictures and sound to augment stories. Multimedia buttons lie muted in the margins, giving priority to the words.

National Geographic
National Geographic: Pretty Pictures and More

National Geographic boasts some of the most amazing photos, and they render beautifully on the iPad. The magazine ($20 yearly) also makes excellent use of multimedia. Every page seems to have interactive graphics, perhaps some video and audio. Even the opening of the magazine delivers a moving picture. National Geographic on the iPad, though, has a complex navigational system involving vertical, horizontal and embedded scrolling. If you're not paying attention, you can miss stuff.

New York Times
New York Times: Read It on the iPad!

The Grey Lady landed on the iPad Newsstand with a thud -- $20 per month price tag that doesn't include iPhone access. Its early days were riddled with crashes. Navigation still doesn't seem to go far enough; you get the feeling this isn't the whole New York Times experience. For archives, you'll have to look for them at nytimes.com. (All access to the Web site is included in the subscription price.) Worst of all, the New York Times on the iPad has no search!

Saving grace: New York Times serves up some of the best reported, most well-written news stories in the world.

The Daily
The Daily: Granddaddy of the Newsstand

Designed specifically for the iPad, The Daily ($1 weekly, $40 yearly) sets the standard for multimedia and presentation. Bold pictures, short stories, eye-catching headlines and easy navigational pointers make scrolling through The Daily a real pleasure.

The Daily on the iPad delivers news in a format that has the feel of a magazine. Unfortunately, The Daily isn't really user friendly for news. As you're scanning news and jumping in and out of stories, you'll have to do some finger acrobatics.

Golf Digest
Golf Digest: A Hole in One

Golf Digest magazine on the iPad ($2 monthly, $20 yearly) has taken scratch-and-sniff print magazines to an awesomely digital level where exploration is half the fun. Digital pages have buttons to launch sound bites and videos, interactive pictures to illustrate golf tips, Twitter feeds, article sharing and more. There's even a buy button on a product review. The only stagnant pages are the ads. Why would any Golf Digest reader who owns an iPad buy the print version?

All of this entertainment has a downside. A single issue took up 634 MB, compared to National Geographic (223 MB) and Sports Illustrated (146 MB).

Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated: Got No Game

Let's be real: Sports Illustrated for the iPad ($4 monthly, $40 yearly) plays second-fiddle to its more popular print version. Pictures and type have that scanned look, which leaves me wondering if someone simply scans the print version into a digital format and then throws in some interactive bells and whistles. Navigation is absurd; if you leave a story, you'll have to flip through pages to get back to it. Worst of all, you get the feeling that the digital magazine is trying to get rid of you. Tap a video button, and you're off to Youtube.

Engadget Distro
Engadget Distro: Stick to the Web

Most iPad magazines started out in print, but not Engadget Distro (free). Engadget grabs the week's best stuff on its popular techie Web site and puts it in a template iPad magazine format. Engadget Distro is also a vehicle for Engadget to try its hand at longer form stories, which still need a bit of work. Navigation doesn't get much simpler. Tap the screen, and a horizontal bar pops up at the bottom to take you wherever you want to go. Large arrows in a story guide you where to scroll. There are lots of pictures, but not much multimedia.