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Feature

First look: 'The Daily' for iPad promises in-depth, interactive news

News Corporation on Wednesday released The Daily, its new digital newspaper with a full staff of reporters covering worldwide news that, for now, is exclusive to the iPad, and free to try for two weeks. AppleInsider offers a first look at the publication that hopes to become the future of newspapers.

Before downloading The Daily, users must agree to the updated iTunes terms and conditions, which note that the application may request permission to provide personal information to third parties for marketing purposes. Users can, however, choose to opt out of this.

The ability to share personal information of subscribers with advertisers was said to be a major sticking point between Apple and publishers, as the two sides attempted to broker a deal for in-application subscriptions. For now, the details of Apple's in-app subscriptions remain unknown, as The Daily is the only to offer the service.

Apple's head of iTunes, Eddy Cue, said on Wednesday that Apple would reveal more information about in-app subscriptions, and make the feature available to other content providers and application makers, in the near future.

When launching The Daily, downloading a new issue requires users to launch the application. It is not automatically delivered through background downloading, as was previously rumored.

Upon launching the application, users are met with an initial loading screen: "A new issue of The Daily. is being delivered." On first launch, the application asks for the ability to access the user's current location and the ability to send push notifications. Nothing is asked about sharing personal information with advertisers.

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The loading process is quick, and users are presented with the carousel, where they can view and browse through sections and stories, though scrolling through the coverflow-like interface displays considerable lag. The content is displayed before the entire issue is downloaded, and progress in downloading latest issue shows up in the top left corner.

But The Daily is not limited to once-a-day updates. Though the publication will primarily offer a new issue every morning, much like a newspaper, editors will also be able to update content throughout the day with breaking news or updates to stories.

The publication, financed by billionaire Rupert Murdoch, features a large team of global reporters. For the initial issue, reporters are on location in Cairo, Egypt, covering the nation's political turmoil. In addition to original reporting, it includes stories from sources like the Associated Press, like most newspapers.

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Text-based content, like editorials on the opinion page, can be read in either portrait or landscape mode. When reading a news story with photos, users can see enlarged versions of the pictures by tilting the iPad into landscape mode, while portrait is intended for reading.

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Content is divided into six distinct sections: News, Gossip, Opinion, Arts & Life, Apps & Games and Sports. For some pages with more graphical content, switching between portrait and landscape mode is slightly laggy. Elsewhere, the application is generally very responsive.

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A scroll bar at the top, dubbed the "visual browser," gives readers a sense of how far through The Daily they are as they read. And interactivity plays a key role, as many stories include features video, while a story in the sports section features Super Bowl trivia. Advertisements from companies like Land Rover are also interactive, with video and motion.

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Stories can also be read aloud by clicking the headphones button, available in the tray of the carousel view. A "fast forward" button also flips through stories, while a 'shuffle" button finds a random unread one. There's even a video introduction to the day's issue, summarizing some of the top stories.

Users can also select their favorite sports teams, where they are able to read headlines, check scores and stats, and even quickly see Twitter posts associated with the team and players.

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The application also includes integration with Apple's GameCenter social networking service, tracking sudoku scores and allowing users to compete with friends and time themselves when working on a puzzle. Sudoku and crossword puzzles are included in the "Apps & Games" section of The Daily, as is content focused on applications available for download in the App Store.

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As with a website or blog, readers can comment on a story, though audio comments are also permitted. Leaving a comment requires a user to register with a username, password and e-mail address.

Stories can also be shared via Facebook, Twitter or e-mail. Loading a story in a browser on a computer gives the full text, but also alerts the reader that the "article has been shared from The Daily iPad app." It also includes an "FYI" that reads: "The shared version of this article is missing content only available in The Daily iPad app."

The Daily is available for free for two weeks, through sponsor Verizon Wireless. This is reflected in the settings of the application, where "Account Information" reads that the current subscription is valid through Feb. 16, 2011. There users can opt to enroll in a weekly subscription of 99 cents, or a yearly subscription for $39.99, a savings of more than 20 percent off the weekly price.

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Selecting a subscription prompts users with an iPad notification, asking to confirm the intent to subscribe. The payments of 99 cents per week or $39.99 per year are automatically recurring, until a user decides to cancel.