I was recently gifted an iPad as a speaker gift at a keynote I delivered, and haven’t been able to put it down.  The inner-geek in me is both amazed at the future aspects of apps like watching live-streaming video in the middle of a newspaper page, and frustrated at the still kludgy-ness of first generation apps.

Hands down, two of my favorite apps (aside from iBooks and Kindle apps) are the New York Times and Wall Street Journal iPad applications.  I can now carry books, technical papers, and newspapers with me at all times, on something the size of a thin notepad.

Better yet, it’s wi-fi equipped and can sync all that content with the cloud (MobileMe), deliver me up to the minute content (the “now” version of newspapers), and enable me to share this data with friends via twitter (Osfoora HD app) and Facebook (Friendly app).

Before I jabber on about how it stores all my photos, MP3s, movies, or the fun filled times I can have with apps such as Pocket Pond, Molecules, and Epicurious – let’s just get into the break down we titled above.

Matrix Scoring

Although both the NYTimes and WSJ iPad apps are nice, they both offer slightly different features, aside from the varying content.  The following is a break down of their features simply for comparison and hopefully improved progress in their future versions.

Feature Set WSJ App NYTimes App
Front Page Yes.

Distinct front page with daily video.

No.

No real front page, only “Top News” section.

Media Rich Partial.

Front page video. Articles have images.

Yes.

Distinct sections for Videos and Photos.

Grey Articles After Reading No Yes
Content Sharing Email only Email/Twitter/Facebook
Paid Content Restrictions Yes No
All Paper Sections No Yes
Multiple Editions Today & Now Edition

(Past 7 days of content for Paid Subscriptions)

Current day/time
Save Articles Yes No
Search Feature No No
Load Images for Offline Viewing Yes Ads only
“Natural” Paper Feel Side-bar content (“what’s news”) No side-bar content
Continuous Reading Yes.

End of one section leads to the next.

No.

Navigating sections requires manual change.

Article Author Contact Email address for non-WSJ authors No
Update/sync progress bar Yes Yes

Conclusion

Overall, I chose the WSJ App as the winner from a feature and stylistic standpoint!  The dedicated front page, side-bar content, continuous flipping through sections, and offline caching of images made it feel natural.  It allowed me to save articles I wanted to read later, and supported multiple versions depending on my preferences.

The WSJ App also had some serious drawbacks.  It had content limitations unless you have a paid subscription, it did not have specific sections for videos, which I see as the main draw of such an electronic paper.  The largest drawback was that I couldn’t share content on Twitter/Facebook, so I emailed them about it and received the following response:

Thank you for contacting The Wall Street Journal Online regarding your WSJ iPad app feedback.

Dow Jones & Co., Inc. truly values the opinions of our subscribers and appreciates the time you have taken to express your feelings.

We have taken the liberty of forwarding your comments to upper management.

That made me feel better, even if saying “upper management” sounds strange, as I’d really the feedback be routed to the iPad developer team.

The NYTimes App was nice but it had no real front page, lacked a side-bar for that natural newspaper feeling, didn’t offer as wide a range of editions of the paper, lacked offline caching of images, and lacked the continuous flipping/swiping from one section to the next.  It did, on the other hand, have much more actual content sections.