RSS feeds are a great way to keep track of everything from the world news to your favorite personal blogs. Unfortunately they can quickly become overwhelming if you don’t have a reader app. This is a popular category in the Apple App Store because so many people use RSS feeds, and it seems that every app has a different approach. Some seek to imitate the Google Reader web interface, while others are designed to look like real newspapers and magazines, folds and all. No matter your personal style, whether you are looking for something stylish or something formal, you’ll probably find it here.
Apollo News ($4.99, $1.99 iPhone version also available)
Apollo News for the iPad is a graphically rich, easy to use RSS reader. Initial sources include ABC News, the BBC, CNN, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, NPR, Reuters, and the Washington Post. Categories such as Top News, Technology, Art, World News, US News, and Facebook appear along the bottom edge of the screen, so navigation is quick and easy.
When you click through to a story, you’re presented with large, easy to read text and smooth scrolling. A single tap takes you to the full story on the web. Small buttons on the top right corner of the screen invite you to like or dislike the story (to help Apollo News learn your preferences), or share it via Facebook, Twitter, email, or Instapaper. If you’d like to read more, a small box at the bottom of the screen offers similar stories.
You can add your own news sources, including your Facebook and Twitter feeds. You can also block sources by disliking an article twice. The overall look and feel is gorgeous, but the general functionality is better suited for casual news browsers rather than for power users who have a huge list of RSS feeds to plow through every day.
BLNS – Blog & News ($2.99, universal)
The BLNS Blog & News Google Reader client may have a funny name, but it’s a fabulous app — one of the best of the bunch. When you first launch the app you’re prompted to enter your Google account information, along with Twitter and Instapaper if you like, plus a few other settings. Tap the Save button and BLNS gets right to work pulling down your unread items.
If you’re in landscape mode (which I would suggest) all of your folders will be listed on the left, with news items on the right. Tap on a folder name to view everything in that folder chronologically; tap the icon to see the list of feeds in that folder and tap again to choose the source you want to read. Everything is lightning fast and every single Google Reader feature is here — you can star items, keep them unread if you like, share them, send them via email or Instapaper, or open the original story in Safari. The only thing you can’t do is “like” individual stories as you can using Google Reader on the web.
Perhaps BLNS’s best feature is the automatic scrolling, which quickly takes you through categories, feeds, or individual stories at the perfect pace. You don’t have to tap, tap, tap to scroll through all of your news items anymore. This is a wonderful feature that works flawlessly. Once you’ve scanned everything, you can use the small checkmark in the lower right corner of the screen to mark all of the news items in a particular feed or folder as read.
BLNS works like a charm, and the price is certainly right. For less than half the cost of most of the other premium RSS apps for the iPad, you get a universal app that is lean, fast, and powerful. It isn’t the prettiest app out there, but it isn’t ugly either. Minimalists and true power users alike will love BLNS.
Blogshelf for iPad takes the “iBooks” approach to RSS feeds in that each news source is presented as “book” on a shelf. The top headline for each news source, along with a thumbnail, is also presented on each blog cover. When you first start the app you’ll see several blogs to choose from; you can easily choose other sources by tapping on the Subscribe button on the top left corner of the screen. You’ll find more featured blogs along with topical lists to get you started, or you can subscribe to specific blogs with keyword searches.
The last ten items for each blog are available, including excerpts and thumbnails. There’s plenty of white space and the overall effect is quite nice. You can change the font, font size, and color scheme if you like, and tweak the screen brightness to a comfortable level. Email, Facebook, and Twitter sharing are included, and you can mark individual articles as favorites. The Blogshelf app did crash a couple of times during my testing, but generally worked well. It’s a nice approach for those who don’t want to follow more than 15-20 news sources and are looking for a stylish, clean interface.
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