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Monday
Nov302009

App Review: Newsroom turned inside out

When WebOS was first launched there were no news feed apps to speak of. Only a few months later WebOS now has some of the most innovative news feed apps on a mobile platform. We take a look at Newsroom which is currently the most expensive feed app and we feel it is worth every penny. The application is called 'Newsroom' and is currently available in the App Catalog for $4.99. It was the first news feed app available in the App Catalog but has come a long way since launch. We dive deep into functionality, bugs, and the UI. Lets take a look.

Check out what Newsroom has to offer after the break...

We have 3 fantastic news feed apps for WebOS and personally, after lengthy testing, I have decided to make Newsroom my full time dedicated feeder. Newsroom takes the feed reading experience to the next level. Most feed apps provide a list of your subscriptions in text which you can view and jump in and out of. Plain text feeders are a thing of the past. Newsroom decided to do away with this plain old way of reading the news. Newsroom adds a couple UI elements iPhone and Pre users are familiar with. Let's take a look.

The Home Screen

Those of you coming from the iPhone may be familiar with the home screen look and feel that Newsroom provides. Newsroom has all of your feeds listed on a home screen in rows of 3 going up and down. You can fit 9 per page and you can swipe your finger from right to left to switch pages. Right now Newsroom allows you to fit up to 36 feeds which gives you up to 4 pages. This is plenty for most but some may be a little put off by this limit. You will also notice the navigation blips underneath the feed icons which shows you which page you are on by lighting up the blip as well as showing you how many pages of feeds you have total. You can manage these 4 screens however you choose. By holding your finger over an icon you can move it to other pages or to another location on that particular page. From the home screen you can tap the menu bar at the top left which will allow you to access your Site Manager, update site feeds, clear unread, or view the help menu.

Site Manager

The Site Manager pages allows you to do a couple of useful things. It shows a list of all the feeds you have added. You can swipe up and down to scroll through the list. You have a 'Delete All' button on the bottom left which you probably won't be using too often but the option is nice. When you tap on a feed you get a couple of options allowing you to customize how that feed works. You can change the display name and description of the feed, you can update the feed, delete the feed, or add notifications to the feed. This is a feature that wasn't included in Newsroom when it first came out but a feature that makes Newsroom one of the better applications to date. The Site Manager oddly enough is NOT where you add new subscriptions to your feeds.

Adding feeds

When on the home screen there is a 'plus' sign located at the top right. Simply tap this to begin adding your feed subscriptions. This screen gives you a couple of different options for finding the feeds you want. Newsroom provides a nice featured list of feeds (hooray we are in there!) as well as a search tool and a place where you can just enter a specific URL. Once you have found the site you are looking for just tap on it and select the 'add site' button.

Feed reading interface/experience

There is no getting around it, this news feed app is not just a reader. Newsroom offers a unique experience for jumping in and out of web sites as well as viewing different stories within a particular news feed. To begin this glorious journy just tap the icon of one of your feeds and your in. Once you are in this view you can see the most recent story from that particular site. This is where it gets fun, once you are in this view you can easily swipe left or right to swap between stories within that site. The stories flip over the screen much like applications do when in card view. Each 'card' I guess we'll call it displays the headline, a portion of the picture posted with the headline, and the beginning of the first paragraph. It shows just enough information to allow you to decide if you want to read the entire story or not. If you decide you don't want to then just swipe left or right to view the next story or the previous story. If you decide you do want to read it then you swipe the story (or card) up. When you swipe up it brings you to a view that is similar to viewing the web page. From here you can scroll the text up or down for your viewing pleasure. It is formatted to fit the screen perfectly so it is easy to read without having to zoom in or out. When viewing the story you can tap the icon on the bottom right to share the story via email or tap the icon to the left of that to view the actual web page. The website you are viewing within this feed is labeled at the top of the page. There is an arrow on the right and on the left. When viewing the full story these arrows will move you to the next or previous stories without having to jump back to the sort of card view described before. If you swipe that headline down it will bring you back to the card like view. Those same arrows will then be located at the bottom of the screen next to the headline and tapping them will jump you to the next feed on your list. This makes reading and viewing feeds interesting, visually stimulating, and fun.

Notifications

This is another area where Newsroom shines over the two other options. Newsroom allows you to add per feed notifications. This means you can have 36 news feeds in Newsroom but choose to have only a few of them give you notifications when there are new stories. If you don't have notifications on for a website you can still see when their are new posts by viewing the sites on the home screen. There will be a red notification bubble over each feed to indicate how many unread stories there are. If you do set a notification, then when Newsroom is not open or you don't have the Newsroom card in focus you will receive a notification in the dashboard telling you which sites have new headlines and how many total unread posts are available. This works quite well and seems to update every 10-15 minutes. There are a few bugs but nothing serious. An example is if there is a new headline sometimes the red notification bubble will show the number 10 when there is really only 1 new post. This doesn't seem to happen for every site only certain ones. Not a deal breaker and the developer has let us know they are aware of the issue and are working on a fix.

Some cons

So far most of the review has been positive but there are a few things to be noted. There is a feed limit. That limit was 9 when it first launched but was updated and is now 36. If you need more than that then this app is not for you.

Does not link to Google Reader. When you download Newsroom, all the feeds will be added via URL, searching, or from the featured list. These feeds are saved on Newsroom and Newsroom only. You cannot just login to Google's Reader or any other Reader and get your feeds. So if direct third party Reader integration is a must, then this app is not for you.

Bugs! There still are a few bugs. The app can feel sluggish from time to time though it has improved a great deal compared to launch. This is something the developer said they will continue to focus on so it will keep improving. Definitely not a deal breaker but it just is not quite as fast as Scoop or Feeds as far as just UI fluidity. The notification bug too can be quite annoying at times because it is nice to know exactly how many new feeds there are when getting a notification, but it will sometimes show 10 new stories when there is really only 1. This seems to be isolated to only a few sites that shall not be named, but it doesn't happen with ours!

Overall

The app is overall is fantastic in almost every way. A big plus when purchasing this application is knowing developer loves to keep in touch with it's users and put out updates quite often. Newsroom is available for WebOS and Android. So far the developers seem to be keeping feature set parity. Another update is on the way which is said to be adding some pretty cool stuff. It gets a high rating from me and will be my regular reader. This is a feature rich news feed application that is definitely worth the price and shows just how powerful of a tool WebOS can be.

Newsroom has their own blog where they discuss development plans, new features, and updates. You can view their site here.

If you have any questions for the developer they have a contacts section usually at the bottom of all their posts.

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Reader Comments (9)

What are some feed readers that have Google Reader support?

November 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJames Taylor

The app 'Feeds' and 'Scoop' In both apps you can log into your Google Reader accounts. Both are in the App Catalog.

November 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

I agree with everything in this review. The developer told me that rotating banner adds cause old feeds to appear as new. I don't think that explains every situation since my own blog feeds have this problem in Newsroom and we have no adds.

One feature I would like is the ability to enable audible notifications in addition to visual ones (just like email or Twee). I wish the client would read directly from the feeds rather than having to use the Newsroom server as a proxy.

November 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDonaldB

I use this apps and i have no problem till now. i also use feed apps with my blackberry bold9700.

sig:Vodafone loves Blackberry

November 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarc

I bought this app and it looks really cool but Ive never gotten it to work properly. It does not display all of the articles. For instance my usa today feed showed 3 new articles and I know thats not right because my feeds app showed bunches more. Everyone else seems love this app, I wish I knew what I was doing wrong.

November 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterslivers

Developer here..

Slivers & Marc - Shoot a message over to newsroom@trileet.com and we will see if we can get you fixed up. So far as we can tell, the vast majority of the users are not running into issues. It's possible there are issues with specific feeds that we can hopefully track down.

Donald - There's huge savings in not reading directly from the feeds, specifically in how the app updates (NewsRoom only fetches the new articles, without having to pull down the full feed like most RSS readers). Also, this allows NewsRoom to expand feeds that normally just have short snippets into full articles -- compare CNN, New York Times, Yahoo Top Stores in other readers and NewsRoom to see the difference. As for the feed showing up as new when it shouldn't, send which feed to newsroom@trileet.com so we can look into it. Rotating ads aren't the only things that cause this, and there are certainly some edge cases we need to address server-sdie. The more feedback we get along those lines, the more robust we can make the product. Thanks a bunch for your help.

As for Google Reader support, this is something we are currently looking into. It's not quite as easy for us to integrate with as it is for other readers since we run against our own server. However, it's an oft-requested feature and it's something we would love to support.

There is an update coming out for the Pre that includes many new features (submitted to Palm today). This includes among other things, the ability to star articles, a merged feed view for all unread articles, and performance/memory improvements.

You can visit our support site if you have problems or want to suggest a feature:
http://getsatisfaction.com/trileet

Also, as Daniel mentions, you can always drop in on our blog as well:
http://feedmonger.blogspot.com

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commentereric

I had been strong-armed by the author of this piece to get Newsroom. I had already bought Scoop, so I was like "what's the point?" But I caved......... And I'm glad I did! This is simply one of the nicest, most polished apps for webOS thus far. In fact, it's one of the apps that I show off to friends when I show them what my Pre can do!

My only complaint is I still have to click on a link every now and then if I want to read all of the article (doesn't happen every time). I also want to send my kudos to the app developers... As you can see from the comment above mine, these guys rock and are very responsive to our feedback. In a word, get this app.

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commentervara411

This agency you can accept 36 account feeds in Newsroom but accept to accept alone a few of them accord you notifications if there are new stories. If you don't accept notifications on for a website you can still see if their are new posts by examination the sites on the home screen. There will be a red notification balloon over anniversary augment to announce how abounding benighted belief there are. If you do set a notification, again if Newsroom is not accessible or you don't accept the Newsroom agenda in focus you will accept a notification in the dashboard cogent you which sites accept new account and how abounding absolute benighted posts are available. This works absolutely able-bodied and seems to amend every 10-15 minutes. There are a few bugs but annihilation serious. An archetype is if there is a new banderole sometimes the red notification balloon will appearance the amount 10 if there is absolutely alone 1 new post. This doesn't assume to appear for every website alone assertive ones.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLatest Phone

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