Times-Splash

I’m always hesitant to update iPhone apps. It usually means more ads and more intrusive location monitoring. The latest iteration of the Los Angeles Times app lives up to the trend, but I’m not alone in pointing out its suckiness. Subscribers sounding off at Apple’s App Store are livid.

“What a shame. Not even worth having the app. How could you guys get it wrong so quickly?” asks Uranussio.

Like the Times’ print edition, there’s a smaller visual news hole with more, and larger ads. A series of annoying pop-ups are ticking off readers before they can even get to the news, especially that upgrade nag screen.

“Before the update, one of the best apps for news," writes Siim4945. "After, one of the worst [because] of the placement of the ads and repeated nagging of the update, which I already have.”

It’s the Times, strong-arming users into making sure they’ve got the latest, ad-infested version while sending those who’ve already updated on a fool’s errand to the App Store.

The app is achingly slow for some. One tipster reports that disabling location services, activated automatically in this latest version, speeds things up. Dig into your Settings/Location Services menu and scroll to LA Times to disengage.

Others gripe about videos that will not play and incomplete stories that vanish after a tempting first paragraph. Many report crashes, something I’ve encountered trying to delete saved articles. And there’s the pointless “Load More” option at the bottom of each section. Tapping it simply reloads what you’ve already seen, starting over at the top. But no new stories appear.

Some are bailing out. “Went from one of my top three apps to removed with the latest update” and “This was one of my favorite news app[s] before the update. It’s worthless now.”

Sure, newspapers are in trouble and mobile apps provide precious little monetization possibilities. But the Times’ latest app smells of desperation, a once-gracious newspaper behaving like a 7-11 panhandler.

My workaround? It’s a return to the old-school mobile version of the Times as seen through Safari’s browser, bookmarked or saved to my home screen — a tactic I used when the New York Times moved behind a pay wall in iPhone’s Newstand. It’s cleaner though not as typographically elegant, but I can scroll past the ads and scan all of the paper’s sections on a single page. No more stories duplicated across app sections.

Still, there are some quirks. Story posting times are off by 12 hours or more and the ads are sometimes hilarious. Here, the top-of-page banner led to a chain of gas stations offering cheap oil changes — in Poland.

Rest assured, Tribune. Next time I’m in Warsaw, I’ll be gassing up at PKN Orlen. It pays to advertise.