The best free iPhone and iPad apps on the EU (European Union)

Iphone and ipad applications on the EUI’ve been looking recently for a free iPhone or iPad app to show my kids what the EU is all about, how many countries it includes and what the institutions are all about.

While looking for such an app (which doesn’t really exist for a young audience), I stumbled across several interesting apps that could be useful for all those who work for, with or around the European Union and its institutions, and I’m not talking about the travel and food apps of which you’ll find plenty.

Here is a list of the free apps I reviewed for download on an iPhone / iPad on the topic of “EU” or “European Union”:

EUssentials (iPhone only): recommended

This iPhone app developed by Cambre Associates brings you a condensed Who’s who of the EU institutions with lots of practical info for EU insiders such as the European Parliament’s official calendar of meetings and a tool to find all the buildings of the institutions on a Google map.

EUssentials is updated to a certain extent (for example, the EP calendar is empty for 2011) and you would expect more information from other institutions (such as the calendar of EU Council meetings) but I suspect that the absence of such information may be linked to the lack of easily exportable data to feed the application.

It is also odd that while the European Parliament and the Commission each have a specific entry in the main menu, the Council of the European Union and the European Council are only represented through a static list of EU Presidencies. In other words, no way to find Mr Van Rompuy and his cabinet’s details in this app.

All in all, the app is extremely handy when like me you need to find the name of a cabinet member or you have to run to a meeting in a building you’ve never been to in the European district. A must have for EU geeks!

EurActiv (iPhone only): recommended

EurActiv’s latest iPhone app is a news app covering EU affairs but also national news depending on the country you chose to cover with the app. The menu is quite straightforward with 5 sections: country of your choice, Brussels, Videos, Agenda and Other.

The app is well designed, very simple and easy to use, and the best thing about it is that you can fine-tune in the Settings which country info, languages and topics you wish to display in the news section. This is great because I like to read both news in English and French, and with this option, I can adapt the app to my needs and not the other way round. The sharing features are also very intuitive and easy to find.

On the improvement side, I note the following elements: the video detail shows up on an anthracite background which is hell to read on such a small screen; the Agenda section doesn’t display correctly (it keeps asking me to reload) and when it does, I get only one agenda item, which sounds implausible knowing the EU’s bustling meetings and events scene. And then there’s no search function within each category.

If you already read EurActiv on a computer, there is no reason why you should not go with the iPhone app, but do not expect any special or new contents in it compared to the web version.

PressEurop (iPhone and iPad): recommended on iPad

PressEurop, an aggregator of EU press articles in 10 languages, is the only one I tried that uses push notifications which for a news site is quite handy but could also become a burden for the user.

The iPhone app displays two news topics, Politics and Society, and a list of thematic dossiers, while all the other topics and categories of the web version are crammed into the last item called Others. Since you cannot change the menu, it is a bit though to easily grab the latest news on the topics that you are interested in. Luckily, the homepage features a search box, which proves very helpful when you know what you are looking for.

The design of the iPhone app is a bit fussy at times and doesn’t convey an image of modernity. In contrast to EurActiv’s app, PressEurop displays news text using sans serif fonts, which makes it less readable on an iPhone at least.

The iPad version of PressEurop is much better than the iPhone one and I really recommend it if you are looking for original press articles in several EU languages.

EU Reporter (iPhone and iPad): not recommended

EU Reporter is an independent media covering EU affairs, and it now has a free iPhone and iPad app on offer. The overall impression is that it looks already outdated in terms of design and navigation, with only three out of the five navigation items actually linked to content.

The news summary pages do not display thumbnails of the news, but only the EU Reporter logo, which doesn’t help in any way. The only nice feature is the “Reading status” button that turns from blue to grey when you’ve already read an article or video content.

The magazine for download works neither on the iPhone nor on the iPad.  Until the above elements are fixed, I wouldn’t recommend this application.

EU and EU (iPhone only): not recommended

On the subject of “EU for dummies”, I actually found two free iPhone applications:

These two apps are a bit like the Thomson and Thompson of EU iPhone apps. They both display the same icon (the EU flag) when you add them to your iPhone and both have the same name, “EU”. They both have one of the poorest user interface I’ve ever seen in iPhone apps, with buttons that override each other and white text on black background.

They also both heavily rely on existing EU literature to be found on Wikipedia and CIA Factbooks, but contrary to those sites, their content is not being updated regularly and they are thus completely static applications.

In other words, a waste of your time and energy!

Very specific EU-related applications: recommended

There are several very targeted EU apps for iPhone which I had pleasure browsing through and which are well built and useful in their specific context:

  • Fête de l’Europe by Tipik (a practical guide to the EU institutions’ Open Days that takes place once a year), and
  • Talk to EU app about finding a job and working in an EU country.

To summarise, there are two indispensable iPhone apps to follow EU affairs and keep with the changing environment of EU institutions: EUssentials and EurActiv, while on the iPad PressEurop clearly stands out to follow EU-related news.

Let me know if I missed out on any free EU-related app for iPhone or iPad!

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