BBC News – a new Widget for Android

Update

28th May 2011: BBC News is now UK & World News. Two years on, two million downloads later, same app, new name. I hope you all continue to enjoy reading the BBC News site through my app.

Original article

nw_detailBBC News is a widget for Android for that shows you the latest news headlines in a compact 2 x 1 widget on the Android home screen. Clicking on the widget takes you to a full list of headlines and more story details.

In the headline view, clicking on a headline will in turn take you to the mobile version of the BBC News page on your Android browser.

Feed selection

Each widget can be customised to show content from any of the BBC’s feeds. The default is the Most Popular feed, but users can choose others such as Sports headlines, Entertainment or Technology news.


Android users outside the UK will see the international versions of feeds and stories. UK users will see the local version by default, although any user can switch between UK and international versions in the Preferences.


You can have multiple widgets on your home screen. They will not normally show the same story, so if you set up three widgets from the same feed you will have the first, second and third headlines shown, in the order the widgets were added.


This isn’t a general purpose feed reader. It is customised to the style of the excellent BBC News feeds to give the best experience. I saw some RSS widgets but they try to include too much text on the widget, and the result is hard to read. Also they did not use the thumbnails that accompany each story, losing the visual appeal that they add.

Download

Download BBC News from the Android market now.

Credits

This program is free software under the Apache license. Supported by BBC Backstage.

I hope you enjoy BBC News. As always, leave bugs and requests here. Even if you just enjoyed the app and would like to let me know. I read all comments but I have only around an hour a day for development so I usually can’t fulfil requests. I normally act when several people start asking for the same thing.


  1. Mark’s avatar

    One of my favourite apps for Android. I would love either a slightly larger version of the widget or even a customisable size?

  2. ian milliken’s avatar

    Jim Sorry to bother you but i cannot get the widget to open as a 2×1 on the home page of my HTC hero. I just get the standard BBC News 1×1 widget. Can you help. Thanks

  3. jimblackler’s avatar

    Are you 100% sure that the widgets you are seeing are from my BBC News app? There are other similarly-named apps in the market. There’s only a 2 x 1 widget from my app.

  4. ian milliken’s avatar

    jim on the about page v 1.5.4 written by you supported by backstage.bbc etc?!

  5. Gareth’s avatar

    Superb app (I don’t use the widget). Makes browsing the headlines far easier. My only complaint is that the app loads itself up in the background even if the widget is off. If this could be changed in the update I would give this app 5/5, at the moment I only give it 4/5.

  6. Graziano’s avatar

    Hi and thanks for the beautiful app.

    You say this program is free software released under the Apache 2.0 license.

    Could you please link this sentence to the place where the source code is hosted?

    Where is it?

    Thanks.

  7. Joe’s avatar

    Jim, I love the app – it dominates my second screen on my HTC Hero. One suggestion is to link through to the mobile detail page rather than the ‘low’ version URL returned in the RSS feed source from the BBC. For example,

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/mobile/football/teams/c/chelsea/8505270.stm

    rather than

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/low/football/teams/c/chelsea/8505270.stm

    The problem with the ‘low’ version detail page is that it has all of the site nav dominating the start of the article on Android. Not sure if the BBC provide a mobile RSS feed with mobile-friendly detail URLs or if you would need to parse and transform the URLs yourself.

    This would make this a killer app for me.

    Well done,
    Joe

  8. jimblackler’s avatar

    Hi Joe

    I am working on a major new version of BBC News, I address this very issue by stripping out the heading with JavaScript. This is possible because the new version has its own browser rather than using the Android browser.

    I haven’t released it yet because there are a handful of known bugs, although these are all in the new features rather than the existing features. Please get in touch on jimblackler@gmail.com if you would like to test it for me. That goes for anyone else reading this who is interested. It’s a big new release because it has its own cache for offline access.

    You are spot on about the problem of getting the mobile versions of the articles rather than the ‘low’ versions. The nice thing about the ‘low’ versions is you can just do a search and replace on the URLs of the ‘high’ versions to convert them over. It doesn’t seem to be that straightforward for the mobile versions.

    Jim

  9. Marky’s avatar

    Mate awesome app, if I could request one option for a future release and that is, when I click on a breaking new story in my notifications (HTC Hero) that the link could take me to the news article on your app?

    Other than that awesome, and an interesting read that interview of yours

    Mark

  10. simon’s avatar

    I have had to reset my hero – the news widget used to show a picture but now it doesnt – can you help – it also takes you to the bbc page not a mobile version

  11. Neil’s avatar

    Can the widget be customizable by the user to display more than 1 headline? Also, is it possible to add more than one BBC feed, so you can see say the UK News as well as Health or Technology at the same time?

    Only just installed it, but it looks great so far.

    Thanks

  12. Justin F’s avatar

    Hi there,

    Great program, but why does it always continue to run in the background? My Hero isn’t very generous with its RAM. So I was looking to leave the program as an on demand new reader.

    Thanks,

    Justin

  13. Justin F’s avatar

    Its ok. I solved it somewhat by using Auto Memory Manager, and finding the process and setting the priority to low.

    Thanks

  14. Alfredo’s avatar

    This app is amazing. It is obvious that you put a lot of thought into it. Unfortunately, my widget is stuck on “Headline will be available later” and I can’t figure out why. I initially thought it was due to custom launchers (HelixLauncher, LaunchPro) that I was trying out. But I uninstalled those, reinstalled the BBC News app, and restarted my phone, and the widget is still stuck. The news articles update when opening the app, and breaking news items show up in the status bar. It was working fine for months until last night and it’s driving me nuts. Any ideas would be much appreciated. Hopefully I don’t have to try a hard reset. Moto Droid.

  15. Alfredo’s avatar

    I confirmed this must be an issue with the widget. My wife, who has an HTC Incredible, is also stuck with “Headline will be available later” but the app itself works when opened. Hopefully you can fix it soon. Thanks.

  16. Jeff’s avatar

    The widget has stopped showing headlines since I updated to 2.1. If I tap on it I can read the stories as normal, but the widget only says “Headline available later”

  17. Julian’s avatar

    Excellent news app. Unfortunately today the feed seems to have broken it as the widget is not displaying any headlines.

  18. jimblackler’s avatar

    Hi all, the default (Most Popular) feed is broken currently due to a mistake at the BBC. I have contacted them, in the mean time if you set your widget to another feed (make a new widget and select Preferences->Change widget feed) this will work around the problem.

  19. jimblackler’s avatar

    NB. if you would like to help test a new version which includes a reworked update mechanism (more battery-efficient), and also has a beta feature of alternative news feeds (the app will eventually be renamed BBC News Plus) please email me jimblackler@gmail.com

    As an added incentive I might put in a workaround for this current widget update problem.

  20. Damian’s avatar

    Hi there, I have recently purchased a HTC desire from t-mobile. I have enjoyed the bbc news feed. (2 home screens to the right). However it now will not update. I touch the update bit at the bottom of the screen and it says updating but it never does. It did update the day after I got my phone(6th June 13:55). Since then it will not update no matter which internet connection I am on. Any ideas would be very much appreciated. Many thanks in advance, Damian.

  21. Graziano’s avatar

    Hi Jim,

    You say this program is free software released under the Apache 2.0 license and we would like to include your app in our fully free software market repository.

    We are building a libre market for Replicant, a fully free software android endorsed by the Free Software Foundation:

    http://replicant.us

    Could you please link the place where the source code is hosted?

    This would allow us to build the app from source so that it can be included in our list and repository.

    Thank you for your support and your wonderful work.

  22. Alastair’s avatar

    Hi Jim,

    Fantastic app. Thanks for all your hard work.

    Feature requests:
    1. In older versions you could click a minus button to make news stories smaller and fit more on the screen. This is now greyed out unless you zoom in first of all. Is it possible to bring this back please? I had resisted upgrading for months because of this but now the older versions really don’t work very well.

    2. As you seem to have built the best RSS reader, any chance of a general purposer RSS reader for other feeds? Is this what BBC News Plus aims to do?

    Cheers,
    Alastair

  23. Mick George’s avatar

    Hi Jim,

    Have been using the app for a while now, have to say it’s the best of the lot, especially with the alternative feeds. Unfortunately it won’t update via wireless anymore – fails with a “No internet connection is currently available”. Only happens when on wireless, works fine on data. All other similar apps work ok on wireless. Can’t remember exactly when it stopped working though… Help!

    Kind regards,

    Mick

  24. iStormUK’s avatar

    This app is slicker than the BP incident in the Gulf. Slim, fast and efficient. I am going to be recommending it to my friends who frequent BBC news sites, as it beats the pantaloons off of Google Reader.

    Excellent app dude.

  25. AndroidGold’s avatar

    Can you just post a link to download the APK file? As you may know, android tablet pcs do not meet Google’s manufacturing requirements in order to have the Google Market app installed onto these Android tablets. This goes for other non-Google approved devices that run the Android OS, but especially for android tablet devices that are particularly useful for reading the news – for example, the BBC.

    Thanks for your consideration.

  26. Emilio’s avatar

    Hello. I got to this page from the Android market and here I am told that to download the BBC widget I have to go to the Andorid market! Where is the BBC widget so I can download it? Thanks.

  27. Jon’s avatar

    I use a lot of the widgets, with a dedicated home screen to news from bbc. However my widgets hardly ever update, no mayer what I try changing around in the preferences. I read one of the comments above mentioned problems updating via wifi? I’m on wifi most of the time, I’m not sure if maybe this is a similar issue. Either way, the while point for me is to have news up to date that can be seen at a glance from my home screens. Any help, cause, update, reason would be appreciated. When it works, it’s great, but if it doesn’t work most of the time, then there’s little point.

  28. reid’s avatar

    Great app, but why does it run at startup? I don’t like things running that I’m not using unless I’ve explicitly enabled it.

  29. pjuster’s avatar

    I agreed great app, but why does it run at start up ?

    Also I have a bug where under motorsport, the article “mcnish hails audi’s le mans win” as an article that always remains in the list and will not go away, I have even changed from a htc magic to a desire and the same article pops up in the list and is never removed from the list. any ideas ? is this you or the bbc site ?

    Thanks for all the great work though.

  30. JACK’s avatar

    fails with a “No internet connection is currently available”.

  31. Jamie Ross’s avatar

    Great wee app bud love it but just one small request, is there a way to change the background of the placeable widget, so its clear for example? or could you point me in the direction so i could learn to do it myself?

    Jamie

  32. susan’s avatar

    First, what a fabulous app for free! But the headlines are now 3 days old. Have installed it again to no avail.

  33. Robert’s avatar

    Hello mate, been using this app for ages now but it doesn’t update the news any more, if you could fix it it would be greatly appreciated, you should seriously charge this this app.

  34. jimblackler’s avatar

    Hi Robert, and all

    I have a number of reports of users not being able to update. It’s not a universal outage and I haven’t been able to recreate the problem on any of my own equipment. Nor are there any patterns in my own user error logs (from the error emails, please keep sending those) or from Google’s own dashboard. So fixing this is not going to be easy.

    Common handsets affected seem to be the HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy.

    It would be great if anyone affected could post their handset model and their firmware version (Settings->About Phone->Firmware) here which will help me get a pattern on the problem.

    Also, if any affected user would be prepared to meet me at my workplace in Westminster, central London I could run some tests directly on their handset, that would be *immensely* useful.

    Jim

  35. Bill’s avatar

    Jim,
    i love your BBC News ap but unfortunately the app has stopped working as of Saturday. I use the app in the US on a HTC EVO 4G on the Sprint network. Here are my software versions:
    Android: 2.2
    Baseband: 2.15.00.11.19
    Kernel: 2.6.32.17-gee557fd htckernel@and18-2 # 15
    Build #: 3.70.651.1 CL294884 release-keys
    Software #:3.70.651.1
    Browser: WebKit 3.1
    PRI: 1.90_003
    PRL: 60676

    Sorry I cant meet you. It is quite a commute from Houston, Tx to the UK. I also emailed the error log from within the app. i hope this helps you out. Good Luck.

    Bill

  36. Bill’s avatar

    Jim,

    That was quick work. As soon as i sent you my phone software info, I tried the BBC app again and it was working. Thanks for the help.

    Bill

  37. Yassinbart’s avatar

    Hi,
    Your app worked fine until a week ago. Can’t update it anymore and I have a nexus S.
    Please.fix it if you can, it was a great app!!!!!
    Thanks!

  38. Yassinbart’s avatar

    Works again..

  39. Nathan’s avatar

    Fantastic app! Definately my prefered news source. Works flawlessly on wifi but can’t update when on a mobile data connection… strange! I’m running v2.33 on a nexus 1, SFR provider in france. Any ideas?

  40. jimblackler’s avatar

    Nathan I have had reports from users in France not being able to use the app. My guess (and it is a big guess) is that one of the mobile providers deliberately or accidentally blocks the feed URL. Or it could be accidentally broken by a characteristic of content compression (many mobile providers perform extra compression on web content in various ways).

  41. Nathan’s avatar

    Hi Jim, thanks for the quick response! In all cases the error I get is “The content is not available”. All other news feeds work fine so it must be as you suspect… maybe part of that lingering French / English rivalry! Not a huge deal as I often have wifi access but a bummer when I’m on vacation. In any case thanks again for the great work!

  42. Shaun Crowther’s avatar

    Hi Jim,

    Just come across your BBC News app.

    Best of the best of the news apps out there. Well done for a job very well done!!!

    Cheers!!!

  43. jimblackler’s avatar

    Thanks a ton Shaun!

  44. Norbert Hoeller’s avatar

    Jim, great application! I am running v2.5.6 with Flash 10.3.185.22 on Android 2.2 (Samsung Galaxy S). I am unable to watch video within the application – the video appears to load but either the player does not display or I get an error “Cannot play media. You do not have the correct version of flash player”. If I visit the full website on the smartphone, I can display the video without any problems. My wife has a similar phone and reports the same problem.
    Thanks, Norbert

  45. zied’s avatar

    Hi, I have the same problem as Nathan, when I click on an article, the progress bar stays stuck at the end. I have the probleme since I updated my HTC Desire HD. My mobile provider is virgin mobile and it is also in france.
    I use a trick now: load full website, but it’s much slower.

  46. jimblackler’s avatar

    Hi yeah, sorry guys, I should update the app to make it clearer really (although that’s difficult for a number of ways). Embedded web viewer on Android doesn’t support Flash for some reason, so currently the workaround is, as you say, to view the page in the regular browser which should be able to handle it. Apologies for the confusion.

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