Make RSS Reading More Enjoyable With NewsFeeds

Maybe I’m old school, but I depend on my RSS feed every day. It’s partially about work — I keep track of which articles are mine are published on various web publications with RSS — but it’s also about relaxing. My long morning coffee is spent catching up with my RSS feed. I usually read long form articles on my iPad, but for quick skims and shorter articles, I’m the first person to pull my iPhone out of my pocket.

I’ve been using Reeder 2 since it came out, and while it’s certainly no slouch of an RSS app, I get the occasional hankering for something new. That’s why I thought I’d give NewsFeeds a spin. NewsFeeds is an RSS Reader built for iOS 7. It supports FeedBin and FeedWrangler. Read on to find out whether or not it’s worth making NewsFeeds an important part of your reading habits.

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Simple Design

NewsFeeds feels almost comfortingly familiar to me, partially because it reminds me so much of the original Reeder. Newsfeed has similar themes and a very similar focus on typography. In short, those that missed the old Reeder are going to feel right at home here.

NewsFeeds looks very similar to the original Reeder, and I mean that in the best way possible.

NewsFeeds looks very similar to the original Reeder, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Newsfeed has a couple interface tricks that I really like. The first is its use of the iOS 7 Share Sheet. Tapping on the Share button while reading an article pops it up, and it looks great. It’s a nice touch that keeps it in line with the rest of iOS. Its other notable feature: NewsFeeds is fast. Not just a little fast, I mean insanely fast. It’s the fastest RSS Reader I’ve tried on my iPhone 5. Sync is instantaneous. It’s worth downloading just to experience its speed.

I love the use of iOS 7's Share Sheet.

I love the use of iOS 7’s Share Sheet.

There are very little surprises throughout the app. From a design standpoint, this is very simple. But what I like about it is that it offers just enough functionality to get by. With some apps, even the so-called minimalist ones like Reeder 2, I’m struggling not to overdo it in my Settings. The Settings in NewsFeeds are very sparse.

That being said, there’s one setting that I really like: background refresh. Now, a quick overview of what this is doing. Turning background refresh on allows NewsFeeds to automatically check for new articles every thirty or sixty minutes. It doesn’t turn off your iPhone’s ability to use its own built-in iOS 7 multitasking, but rather makes sure that it checks for new articles on a specific schedule.

Here’s where it gets interesting, though. I check my RSS reader quite frequently. It sits on the home screen of my device, and for the most part, it’s simply habitual. My iPhone knows that, so even with background refresh turned on in NewsFeeds, the app still updates much more frequently than every thirty minutes. What the background refresh option is there for are people who would like a safety option, in case they check their feeds less frequently.

Reading an article is very pleasant.

Reading an article is very pleasant.

Reading an article is nice too. The app presents the text with the system font, which means that changing the size can only be done using the Dynamic Type options in Settings.app. That being said, I think the font size is just right out of the gate. With the exception of embedded videos, which NewsFeeds occasionally missed, NewsFeed has been an exceptional reading experience that I look forward to every day.

Premium Features

The app is free, and I’d say that 90% of its interface is available to everybody who tries the app. That being said, some features are saved for those who pay a $2.99 in-app purchase fee. Notably, Read Later services require the $2.99 purchase. If you use Instapaper, Pocket, or Readability, you’ll have to cough up the $3.

Paying that price also unlocks Smart Streams in Feed Wrangler and Tags in FeedBin. Notably, the old Reeder doesn’t support Smart Streams, which makes NewsFeeds a better buy for those of us who miss the older interface style of the original Reeder.

The Settings are very spartan.

The Settings are very spartan.

There are quite a few missing features, though. First of all, the app doesn’t support services like Pinboard or Delicious. If you use those frequently, you’re going to be left out in the cold. It also doesn’t support a lot of the other services you might need, like App.net, QUOTE.fm, Evernote, Zootool, or Buffer.

Some of these problems wouldn’t be so bad if NewsFeeds supported URL schemes. I’ve searched for documentation about this and have found none. If it had supported URL schemes, there might have been potential ways to integrate some services into the app that it didn’t already have (not to mention we’d finally have a viable iPhone competitor for Mr. Reader on iPad).

Slide right to Star a post and left to Mark Unread.

Slide right to Star a post and left to Mark Unread.

As it stands, then, you’re left with a very few other options if you want to use subscription services with NewsFeeds. I use App.net and Pinboard a fair bit. To save webpages to my Pinboard account, I copy and paste the URL into either Pincase or open the webpage in Safari. In Safari, I use Pinboard’s Javascript bookmark to save articles there. It’s a pain, but it works.

Photos look great, but embedded videos aren't always visible.

Photos look great, but embedded videos aren’t always visible.

For App.net, I’m in a little bit of better luck. I just copy and paste the URL into Drafts, where I can not only compose my post for App.net, but also for Twitter (and Facebook, if I so desire). That isn’t as much of a problem for me, especially since I already that half the time for links anyway, but I can certainly see why this is crippling for other people.

My Final Thoughts

NewsFeeds isn’t perfect. This is an RSS Reader made by a developer who have never made one before, and it shows. In that respect, Josh Williams (the developer) is smart to keep the feature set small right now. While there’s a lot missing, I look forward to seeing it get added in future updates — they would be great ways to encourage more in-app purchases, too.

For me, I think NewsFeeds is a breath of fresh air. Compared to the other starkly white iOS 7 apps, NewsFeeds has a sense of personality that is at once fresh and reminiscent of the original Reeder’s fantastic design. Because it’s meant to work with iOS 7 from the ground up, NewsFeeds is fast and supports the best of what makes iOS 7 awesome. I’m just glad to see somebody experimenting with something other than plain white navigation. NewsFeeds is well worth trying for RSS junkies.


Summary

NewsFeeds doesn't feel entirely feature-complete, but it's blazingly fast and beautifully designed for iOS 7. Highly recommended for Feed Wrangler and FeedBin users.

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