April 22, 2009

iPhone App of the Week: Newsstand

UPDATE: Newsstand has since been updated in a somewhat radical manner. For one, the landscape view doesn't show a 'newsstand' anymore , but just a landscape view of the thing you see in portrait mode (when in an article). Plus, it has sharing features (E-mail, Twitter, etc.) as well as Google Reader sync support. Other than that, Newsstand is widely the same and only sports subtle visual changes. (Newsstand 1.0 is the one reviewed; 1.3.2 sports the above features)

The one thing I don't like about Safari in my iPod touch is the fact that it doesn't support RSS feeds- and yes, it's more important than Flash for me. Thankfully, the App Store is there to rescue as it already offers multitudes of RSS readers, but for now, I've settled with an app called Newsstand to gather all the latest articles of various sites I frequent to. And no, RSS is not like Twitter where you have to click the link to automatically open the browser to read- it displays the actual article involved.
So when you open the app, you will have to wait for a few seconds and all your feeds will come out. The interface is pretty clean, and you can filter all the articles to the ones you marked for later reading ("Flagged") or to the ones you haven't read ("Unread"). Otherwise, you can go inside the site you subscribed to and read the article(s) you want.
One great thing about this app is that it will make you notice the fact that you still have some unread articles because the icon will also bear a number badge (number of unread articles) ala the Mail application.
Still, personally, adding new sites isn't always easy, but the number of methods available for adding new sites is welcome. Unfortunately, before you are even able to add more sites (or folders, actually), you have to press Edit.
True, the Edit screen also lets you delete or move the sites you subscribe to, as well as give you tips on using Newsstand, but this is when you're finally able to add new sites and folders for organization.
There are a number of ways you can add feeds, actually. Normally, you can just type the URL of your favorite site, but if the site you typed doesn't typically have a RSS feed on the fly, you can search for an alternative feed through its Search feature.

If you have a Bloglines account, you could also let Newsstand gather all the RSS feeds under your account through Import.

Other than that, there's also a distinctive gimmick to Newsstand that separates it from other readers: it can be a literal "newsstand" when you put the device on a landscape orientation.
When you click on a site's "magazine", it'll open up and show you a list of the articles, and you can read it without having to leave the screen as well. It's pretty cool, and somehow lets you read through feeds faster in my experience.

Not everyone knows about RSS, but if you do, Newsstand can serve you well, although there is the occasional rendering and magnification bug.

Rating: 7.5/10

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