New York Times has a lot of angry iPad subscribers after latest gaffe

QA anyone? Gray Lady's iPad app breaks just in time for Independence Day

The New York Times needs some new mobile app developers. The newspaper, which recently started charging readers for online content, has a lot of angry subscribers on its hands after an update broke the NYTimes for iPad application.

Many, if not most iPad subscribers have been unable to access Times articles since Friday, when an update pushed through Apple's App Store rendered the application unable to display content. The Times app, when it works, is an excellent option, with an easy-to-navigate interface and the ability to download the entire day's paper for offline reading.

But after the New York Times updated the app to version 2.1, which offers a new Sunday Review section and an easier way to subscribe through iTunes (irony!), the application hangs on an opening screen without displaying any articles, and eventually just closes.

Users have been hammering the Times in App Store reviews, bringing the app's rating to less than two out of five stars.

"I guess no one bothered to test the latest update before making it available," one user writes. "Doesn't load at all. I expect something like this from a small time developer but not the New York Times."

Other readers wrote that they would be seeking refunds from the New York Times Company. Digital access including the iPad app starts at $20 per month. 

Some users reported success by uninstalling and reinstalling the application. I tried it myself and it didn't work. However, iPad owners should be aware of another workaround, which may seem obvious: Just open the New York Times in Safari. Even better, navigate to to access a Web application designed for the Google Chrome browser. Despite being built for Chrome, the interface is similar to the iPad application's and it even offers limited ability to view articles offline. But since using the tablet application costs more than accessing the New York Times through a browser, readers have a right to be annoyed at the Times' inability to fix the problem quickly.

The Times has kept readers up to date on mobile app problems thorugh its NYTimesMobile Twitter feed. In fact, an update also ruined the iPhone app last week, and the Times used its mobile Twitter feed to let readers know that a new version had been released to fix startup problems and to advise readers to remove and reinstall the app.

But no new version of the iPad app has been released to fix the latest update, and the Times hasn't updated the mobile Twitter feed since Friday nor has it responded to tweeted complaints over the long weekend.

It's surprising how often updates break iPad applications. I've used a couple of Facebook apps that cost a dollar each and worked well until an update. Eventually, I just switched to using Facebook in Safari because it's more reliable, just as I did this weekend with the Times.

The Times' mobile app team has its work cut out for it when it (presumably) returns to the office Tuesday. The biggest question may be how many readers will cancel subscriptions.

TUESDAY UPDATE: The Times now says a fix will be coming "very, very soon." For what it's worth, the app started working again on my iPad late last night. Hopefully the forthcoming update will fix the problem for all users. 

ONE (HOPEFULLY) FINAL UPDATE: The Times has rolled out a fix to the application through the App Store, and it appears to be working properly. 

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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