Lot of exciting technologies came up at the dawn of the Web 2.0 era. Some succeeded early and have turned into dominant platforms today. On the other hand, some failed all too miserably despite being equally awesome. Podcasting is one such tech trend that never quite reached the masses (although you will hear arguments to the contrary).
YouTube and other video sharing sites grabbed the audience early on and audio publishing never really had a chance. Today, audio publishing is targeted mostly at geeks, influentials and power users, but that doesn’t stop entrepreneurs from launching cool stuff involving audio every now and then. Snackr dishes out news in tiny, bite-sized audio clips. Sounds interesting, right?
Snackr has a well defined user interface divided into three sections. At the top, we have the news categories and a horizontal swipe is used to switch between them.
An energetic graphic equalizer occupies the middle section of the app. It’s mostly for eye candy and tapping on it plays or pauses a news clip. It took me a few minutes to figure out the play/pause functionality, and it would be great if it was labeled properly.
To see the source of the news currently playing, swipe horizontally and the logo of the outlet from where the news is sourced along with a brief description are shown. Finally, at the far end of the screen sits the clip selector. You can select and play individual news items from here.
The voice that reads out the news has a British accent, but isn’t very hard to follow. Clearly, an algorithm is hard at work in the background to make the app work and in most cases, Snackr does a fabulous job of maintaining a professional news-reader-like experience. However, at times some words skip ahead a bit too fast and aren’t very clear. The diction goes for a toss every now and then, making your head spin and it isn’t obvious what exactly is the subject under discussion.
Snackr narrates stories that aren’t written without any emotion flawlessly. But, it gets weird when the app tries to read blog posts that are meant to be sarcastic in the same flat tone. Every news clip begins with the name of the original source and it takes less than half a minute to sum up. There is no rambling or fluff and the news is always to the point.
Fans of longform might not like how short the news clip are and they might be better off with NPR or podcasts. In any case, it might take some time to actually get used to this ultra short news format. Still cannot find enough time to spare to listen to those 30 seconds of clips one after another? Then try the 5-Min Snack feature instead. In this section, you can listen to the top new items that matter condensed into a 5 minute nugget. Its like the digital version of spoon feeding!
Creating an Account
You don’t have to create an account to enjoy Snackr, but creating one does offer a lot of goodies and it all happens really quick if you link your Facebook account.
The Facebook account integration isn’t just to add a social layer. Snackr reads out a daily greeting which is derived from the activities in your Facebook account. Upcoming birthdays and daily weather reports are announced too. Good thinking!
With an account, it’s also possible for you to create custom news channels. There is a comprehensive listing of categories and under each category, few of the top news outlets can be found. Unfortunately, the developers seem to have dropped the ball when it came to designing the Settings screen as it is annoying to scroll up and down a tiny box.
History and Favorites
We are inundated with new items every passing hour and it often gets difficult to keep track of items we really enjoyed or of importance to us. Tag the news clips you like by tapping on the Star button and you can find all the clips you have bookmarked under Favorites.
Another perk of the favorites option is that you can read the original article in its entirety from the app or open it up in Safari. Why this useful option isn’t available elsewhere in the app is a mystery. You can email the link from the sharing options if you like, however. While at the favorites screen, you can also check out the entire log of all the clips you have listened so far in chronological order.
Snackr is fun and awesome. A major chunk of the present generation has the attention span of a three year old and the bite sized nuggets offered by the app is just about the right size. Anything more and people will get bored and move on.
Snackr is a bit over enthusiastic and starts playing as soon as the app is launched. In most scenarios, that’s annoying and the user should be given control when to begin playback. Snackr is a perfect companion for those of us who don’t like to read or want to listen to news for a change.