Newsrack for iPad: A feed reader done right (finally)
Yesterday we saw the blandness that was Feedler with the trial period that catches you by surprise one week into using a supposedly free application. If there was a better example of how best to piss off possible customers, I haven’t come across it yet (but we’re only just beginning, give it time!)
Today is a good opportunity to hit the other side of the spectrum. If Feedler is an example of When Feed Readers Go Bad, what is example of the right way to approach feed reading on the iPad platform?
Newsrack is probably the best feed reader on the iPad at the moment. With a similarly simple approach to RSS reading as Feedler, Newsrack serves as a front-end to your Google Reader account. By calling it simply a front-end, I feel as though I’m underselling it though.
The sum of the parts of the application are greater than the whole. The carefully designed interface, the broad range of configuration options, the sharing features and the in-app web browser.
Without sounding like a complete shill, the app has won me over as my preferred platform for reading feeds on the iPad. It’s been a long road of progressively upgrading – from the poorly-optimised-for-iPad Mobile version of Google Reader online to the Desktop version of Google Reader. Then to Feedler, for a week until my ‘trial’ expired and now to Newsrack.
What I do like
One of the best improvements over Feedler is the increased usability of the Feed list, which includes posts ordered by day posted along with short grabs of each article underneath the heading. By contrast, many other readers display just a plain heading with no article sample.
Also built in is sharing features, as mentioned above. Newsrack can share items on Google Reader, Twitter, via Email, Instapaper (thankyou!), Delicious, ReadItLater and on Facebook.
Having only recently gotten into sharing news articles via Google Reader’s own system with friends, the GR sharing is a welcome addition, on top of the many options it already provides.
Another thoughtful feature for those of us with Wi-Fi iPads or without constant net access: Feed Downloading!
Newsrack allows you to download entire feeds for local browsing and even goes as far as to tell you how much space it’s going to occupy on your iPad.
The app icon also shows how many unread articles you have remaining. Nice touch although a little disconcerting for the obsessive compulsives out there, but it can be turned off.
What I don’t like
Newsrack is a quality application and is pretty much essential for Feed Reading on the iPad. If there’s any downside, though, it’s the price.
Feedler is not good, but it’s free. Newsrack on the other hand is $4.99 or A$5.99 – a significant step up. Your estimation of the value of it many be different, in which case the vanilla Google mobile or online desktop reader may suffice.
Another thing I don’t like is that some news posts appear slightly distorted, compared to their Google Reader web versions.
This is because Google’s online Reader strips out virtually all formatting save for paragraphs and images. Newsrack, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to do this, or at least not to the degree Google Reader does.
This leads to some occasionally weirdly laid-out but still readable articles. Hopefully this will be fixed with a future update.
Newsrack is just a well put-together app that represents the essential Feed Reading app on the iPad and I have no regrets about plonking down some currency to get it.
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5
Newsrack is available on the App Store for $4.99.
What do you think of Newsrack? Does it live up to the hype? Post in the comments!