The App Store celebrated its one billionth app download in 2009, a time when Retina displays were a mere dream and multitasking required two iPhones. Reeder made its debut after the 2009 milestone and was one of the first apps to bring style to iOS RSS readers. In the three years since this milestone, downloads exceeded the 25 billion mark, and Apple finally pushed past the mark of platform parity. Just like the savvy developers at Apple, Rizzi continued to push innovative designs, and the app grew along with the operating system that held it.
Reeder 2 featured major design and performance improvements, and it quickly became a gold standard as well as a dock companion. Rizzi dropped several hints about Reeder 3 over the last few months, but none of these juicy bits prepared users for the dramatically different experience provided by the newest update. Reeder’s new 3D animations and improved picture handling brought quick praise, but critics were just as quick to critique the app on its extensive push of the Readability service.
Does Reeder 3 improve upon its predecessor, or has the update tarnished this app’s excellent reputation?
Reeder’s cutting-edge design has always been a key selling point, and the latest release of the app certainly lives up to the hefty expectations placed upon it. The new icon is representative of Rizzi’s choice to remove unnecessary design bulk, but it still oozes the Reeder style. In the same fashion, Reeder ditches many of the heavy menu bars in favor of light tabs that give the illusion of having more space. This is especially relevant in the article view, where the dark titlebars have been done away with altogether. Everything about Reeder is simplified, and the app even axes little distractions such as the status bar takeover during feed refreshes.
Reeder 3.0 supports two additional services, Fever and Readability, and the app does an excellent job of incorporating these services into its signature design. Each of the service feeds is separated into starred, unread and all articles, just like articles in Google Reader. This consistent experience makes it easy to switch between services, and Reeder takes it one step further by combining all of them into one unread list. Of course, there are unread lists for each individual service, but the universal list is perfect for someone who simply wants to read.
Reeder 3.0 is forward thinking with its inclusion of Readability and Fever, but it certainly doesn’t leave Google Reader behind. The update brings a major addition to the Google Reader feature set, subscription management. Users can add a feed url by tapping the plus button in the Google Reader list view. The app also offers individual feed management.
Reeder is the second iPhone application to support Shaun Inman’s Fever, a self-hosted alternative to Google Reader. The first iPhone app to tackle Fever, Sunstroke, takes inspiration from Fever’s fiery theme, but Reeder strips away most of the flames and brings Fever’s presentation inline with Reeder’s subdued design.
The Hot list is one of the key differences between Google Reader and Fever, and Reeder brings the Hot list along but drops the temperature headings present in the web experience. The Hot list combines articles that reference or link to the same event into one story module. Fever users can glance over similar articles, choose which ones they want to read and ditch the rest.
Reeder can cache images for unread and/or starred items for each account, based on user preference.
One of the largest caveats with Fever is that the service doesn’t refresh automatically. Users must either manually trigger a server refresh or create a cron job to schedule periodic refreshes. Reeder can trigger a refresh within the application, but it must also sync with the server once the refresh is complete. Refresh speeds are based on the web host, and it’s certainly not as fast as syncing with Google Reader. Fortunately, Reeder intelligently differentiates between sync and server refresh in the Fever settings, so users can control each setting individually. Users can still rely on cron to refresh Fever automatically, which makes the syncing experience with Reeder much faster.
Readability’s official app is an excellent way to keep up with saved articles, but there’s little reason to keep the separate app now that Reeder has full Readability support. Users can save Fever or Google Reader articles to Readability and review their articles all within Reeder’s walls. Reeder’s settings acknowledge that RSS readers and read-later services are used in fundamentally different ways. App settings can be customized for each service, so Readability fans can set the “Mark Article as Read” to the manual mode, so articles remain in the unread list as long as the reader desires.
Clever gestures are an integral part of the Reeder experience, and the newest release improves the classics and makes some notable additions. Users can still individually customize the left and right swipes to mark articles as read/unread or send an article to their favorite read-later service, but the animations are greatly improved. The traditional pull to flip arrow for articles has been replaced with a 3D accordion animation. This same animation is also used in a new gesture, where users can mark all articles above or below an article in a feed as read by two-finger swiping up or down on an article in the feed list. General article navigation is as speedy as ever, with the swipe back gesture that takes users from an article back to the feed list. The only thing missing here is the ability to swipe back from the web view of an article.
Pinch the screen to activate the Readability mobilizer in the article view.
Reeder 3 brings a completely revamped sharing menu, with additional services and a better-looking layout. The sharing options are fairly standard for Google Reader, but Fever users will definitely appreciate the built in options that don’t require a custom url. There are 11 sharing options to choose from, including specialties such as QUOTE.fm and Buffer. Additional sharing options are nice, but Reeder’s improved image handling is something special. Tap a feed image to reveal the action menu. Users can share an image, view it fullscreen, or save it to the camera roll.
AppStorm readers understand the thrill of discovering new apps, and there’s always new eye candy in the app store; but, it’s the apps that continuously improve that make the iPhone worth using. These tried-and-true applications keep us coming back to our phones and show developers that it’s possible to create a longstanding success in an environment that’s full of flashes in the pan.
Last year Shaun Takenouchi wrote, “Overall, Reeder is hands down, one of the best Google Reader apps out there for the iPhone.” Reeder is still one of the best, if not the best Google Reader app for the iPhone, but leave it to developer Silvio Rizzi to add two new services to the list. Rizzi doesn’t merely add support for these services as an afterthought, he includes the appropriate flourishes and features to make Reeder the only app that you’ll ever need to use them. Reeder 3’s performance is superb and the interface changes remove the heft of fading design trends. This must-purchase application has improved in every way, and the inclusion of additional services underlines the continued commitment of a truly excellent developer.