Although I’m a fan of the Palm Pre, let’s just say, the app selection and quality is a ‘mixed bag.’ Apps that are mediocre get pretty popular because there are few alternatives and many people have lower expectations. Sort of like the fact you can’t open a mediocre pizza joint in New York City as you’ll be out of business in a month. In other parts of the country, there is much less quality competition so you can pull it off.
Up until now, there have been a handful of NewsReaders, some Homebrew, some app catalog. Most of the App Catalog news readers are ‘dedicated’ apps to a particular site such as The New York Times or AP News. The exception is ad supported ExpressNews from Handmark, which aggregates a number of preselected news sites.
The Homebrew apps (primarily managed by PreCentral.net) are usually a combination of:
- Apps that are very simplistic and don’t have enough commercial value or interest to be in the ‘Official’ app catalog
- Apps that are in beta and are not yet finalized or approved for the App Catalog
- Apps that may not ever get approved because they do something Sprint or Palm doesn’t like such as use undocumented API’s etc. I will say, the number of apps that fall into this category as a percentage of the total submitted are a tiny fraction compared to Apple’s Iron Fist at the App Store.
To my knowledge, up until now the only way to have user configurable newsfeeds that are aggregated was to use GoogleReader in the WebBrowser. It’s quite functional on Pre’s state of the art Webkit based browser, and operation is amazingly good for such a small device. However, like most news readers, it shows you the title and you can drill down to the ‘teaser’ summary of an article. After that, you need to click a link that launches off another browser page and loads the full article cramming whats often a PC sized webpage onto the handheld. 30 seconds later after downloading and rendering you can start pinching and zooming to read your content. If you don’t like it or want to move on, you have to swipe closed that browser, swipe back to google reader, and repeat the process.
I also own an iPod Touch and use an application called ByLine from Phantom Fish. Up until now, it was my favorite reader as it took your googlereader settings and pushed them out to the iphone/ipod nicely. If you wanted to see ‘more’ on the article, it had it’s own embedded browser so you did’t have to quit it and launch out to another web browser. Plus it even offered the ability to cache the full articles which mean on devices like the iPod Touch you could sync while you had wifi, and then read it offline anywhere. However, it was still time consuming to render the webpage and you have to do alot of pinch and zooming to cleanly read the full article.
However, all this changed recently with Trileet‘s NewsRoom. NewsRoom is essentially an RSS/Newsfeed reader. However, their approach to this issue is tackled by creating a backend server network (which I believe is hosted by Amazon Cloud services) acts as an agent between your Pre and the content provider. This high powered server can download the content almost instantly and then use serious processors to reformat images and layout such that when you view it on your device, it looks great! It pretty much makes any traditional news site or link you have look like it was hand optimized to be used on a 3″ screen.
Unlike prior solutions, though you really do get the visual experience in terms of photos, nice fonts etc, but all at a very readable level that can be completely navigated incredibly quickly with one hand. I hope these guys patented some of their design and gestures as its the one to beat.
Basically you have an Pre/iPhone like grid of feads such as GearDiary, Engadget, Wall Street Journal etc. Then you click on the icon for the feed and the system smoothly slides up the first new blog listing which pretty much equates to the Summary list you see on the web page. You then swipe right to left on the screen to swipe between the listings similar to scrolling down the home page of GearDiary or Engadget on their Homepage on a PC.
When you see an article you want to know more about, you slide from bottom up, to reveal the full article. No rendering time, no launch another screen etc. (Boy I wish Palm would take note on this technique with their email client.) You can tap to read the FULL next article in the blog roll pretty much instantly, or you can slide top down to go back to the headers (or gesture area swipe left as usual) and slide between them. You can then gesture area slide left again to get back to the main feed page.
You currently can have up to four feed pages which gives you up to 36 user definable feeds. All this within one application that makes it feel as if every single feed is sitting on a ‘giant’ page that you are scrolling between with no perceptible load or rendering times.
Every article has built in one tap access to either jump to the web browser and see the original article in context on the original web page (like traditional news readers) and a one tap way to automatically send a copy of the link via email including an automatic synopsis.
But wait! There’s more….
This is a Pre we’re talking about here. The device that manages and handles multi-tasking better than any other shipping device on the market. If updates or new postings occur to your sites, when you go to the ‘home page’ of the NewsRoom App, the icons that represent your fees, will have a number on them indicated the number of new articles since you last looked at it.
Now where it really get’s interesting, is you can setup on a feed by feed basis whether you want to take advantage of WebOS’s world beating notification design. If you set notifications on a feed, and a new article is posted, you’ll see a small icon in the lower right, along with the same icons that represent a new email, or a new SMS message etc. If you tap that icon, it slides out the lower bar notification telling you how many new articles there are and lists which feeds they are contained in. Then if you tap on that bar, it either opens or switches to NewsRoom so you can read the latest articles.
If you are a news or tech junkie, this App. is Nirvana on the Pre.
FYI, they recently released an Android version as well. I don’t know if it has the same feature set or performance as the Pre version however.
Here is a great overview video: