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Dec 25, 2011 | How 6 newsreader apps behave offline

Merry Christmas everyone! I assume a good number of people have gotten something iPhone/iPad related this year, and I’ve had the opportunity to test out several newsreader apps for a couple weeks and hope to share my results here. While I am an iPhone owner I don’t subscribe to a data plan (to keep things on the cheap side) and as such the behavior of apps offline is really important to me – if the app doesn’t show me anything without Wi-fi or 3G, it’s useless to me when I’m travelling or on a subway, and it’s usually those times when I fiddle around with my iPhone the most. So without further ado, here are reviews of six newsreader apps: Google Currents, Pulse, Flipboard, Flud, Zite and Feedly.

On each of the images below, the left side indicates the online view, the right side indicates the offline view

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Google Currents quietly made its appearance towards the beginning of December and has me quite smitten with its ability to sync interesting content for offline access. The UI is strongly influenced by Flipboard, but similarities end there. Once you open the app it automatically syncs with some of the most popular news content, like The Daily Beast and Fast Company. It helps too when you have multiple devices because it will sync news sites across the same Google account. The only downside is that it usually takes several steps to go from headline to article, but that’s a really minor effort.

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Pulse has been a popular mainstay of the iPad crowd and has been around for quite some time- however, the challenge of translating a wildly successful iPad app to an iPhone app is pretty evident despite their good efforts. All the content you see when you load the app is available offline and it’s definitely nice to be able to see so much content at once – however, there is something to be said about being able to see some lead about the content of the article, which Currents affords, for example. There’s too much goodness packed into the small screen, and for once it can be an unfortunate drag on an otherwise neat app.

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Flipboard takes a more social approach by integrating first and foremost with your social network, like Facebook and Twitter, and as such news content takes a back seat in this app, and a really far back seat at that. While it’s okay just to see pictures or 140 characters if it’s your friends, news content rarely fares so well. As such you’re more than likely faced with a blank slate and a tantalizing headline that you won’t have access to until you’re within data or wireless range.

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I was secretly rooting for Zite because of two things – a beautiful font set they use for the text, and the neat premise that it learns from what you read and what you mark as “liked” to suggest future content based on those preferences. However, it fails miserably offline and all you’re left is a pitiful apology that something seems amiss. Clearly Zite has one last thing they need to learn from the other contenders, but otherwise this is a fantastic app.

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Feedly seemed like the only available aggregator for the Sony Tablet S I have, so I tried it on the iPhone as well, and it’s a huge disappointment. The news content available from the get-go is mediocre, and don’t expect anything if you’re caught without wireless or data. If you want more settings than what they have, apparently you have to “Go see the iOS settings app”

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Flud attempts to straddle the fine line between social and news, but unfortunately manages to add a layer of complexity that had me confused and unable to coordinate well. The “Reading List” forms the part of the app where you store news items for later use – but just like ReadItLater or Instapaper, that extra effort is often just beyond the grasp of the amount of time I have available – usually I grab my iPhone and hope there’s something good to read when I’m bored, and it’s disappointing to realize all too late that you’ve forgotten to hit “Reading List” before you turned the device off.

This entry was posted on Sunday, December 25th, 2011 at 6:20 pm, EST under the category of Coding. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.