USA Today, the national newspaper, has a long history of prettying-up the news with the use of color. Full color images, graphics and even sections have long been a staple of the paper, even when most of its peers were still in black and white. Now USA Today has brought that same flare to the iPhone with its new, free application.

While there are a few other very good news-based applications out there for the iPhone, namely the AP-powered Mobile News, USA Today’s app represents a move to style mixed with substance. When you launch the app, you’ll be greeted by a familiar Apple style that many other apps share. But while an app like Mobile News’ is mostly black and white and pretty spare, USA Today’s is filled with color and options.

The app smartly highlights your local weather (or the weather of any saved city) in the upper right hand corner. Clicking on this area will take you to a more detailed view of the weather, including a five-day forecast and weather maps.

Underneath this area, you’ll find a tool bar filled with the various USA Today sections (“Top News,” “News,” “Money,” “Sports,” etc.). Selecting any of these loads the headlines for that topic in the main part of the screen. Clicking on a headline takes you to a story’s page where you can read it and click on any of the images included to enlarge them to fill the whole screen. It’s simple and nicely executed.

Also nice is the “Share Article” button on each story page. Mobile News has something similar, but with USA Today’s app, you have the option to not only email or text a story to a friend, but you can also use Twitter to send one. Clicking on the “Twitter” button launches the iPhone app Twitterrific (assuming you have it installed) and automatically inserts the link to the story you wish to share in a new tweet (Twitter message).

The USA Today app also features quick access to key sections many people care about: sports scores, weather (though this is a bit repetitive since you can also access it at the top of the app as I mentioned), pictures (the best photos of the day or week) and snapshots.

Regular readers of USA Today will recognize “Snapshots” as the little infographics that are on each section’s front page. The USA Today app gives you access to these in news, sports, life and money. It also smartly allows you to vote on the questions appearing in these snapshots with a couple clicks on the iPhone. Once you do that, you can see results of others who voted, including localized results.

While the Mobile News app mainly focuses on national stories from the AP (it has access to over a thousand news organizations but most are for the local news), USA Today includes stories from both the newspaper and some from the AP as well. That alone makes this app worth using for the national picture. But one thing it doesn’t offer that Mobile News does is video.

The USA Today app does appear to have overlay advertisements, but so far I’ve only seen ones promoting their own crossword puzzle app.

Still, the combination of news, a solid look and feel, and functionality — like sending stories to Twitter — will keep me reading USA Today daily on my iPhone.

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