As a tech writer, I read far more than I write. And most of my reading is through RSS feeds on a computer, be it a netbook or a notebook. I used to read feeds on smaller devices, but the experience was generally sub-par for me. The new NetNewsWire app for iPhone has changed that perception in a big way. I downloaded the free version of the app a few days ago and I’m totally enjoying it. I’m not keen on the advertisements in the free version, mainly because they take up a bit too much space when in landscape mode, so I’m dropping the $1.99 to get the ad-free version. The app is slated for a price increase to $4.99 in October, so hurry up and try the free version if you’re remotely interested.
You’ll need to have or create a Google Reader account to use the application, but I’ve been addicted to Google Reader for a few years now. It meets my needs in terms of features and since it’s web based, I can use it on any device I have. For a while, I used the mobile version on different phones, but again, it just wasn’t the best experience for me.
Once NetNewsWire is installed on your iPhone or iPod touch, you sign in with your Google Reader credentials. Synchronization fires up and my few thousand feeds were all pulled down in under three minutes over Wi-Fi. Once you’ve synced your feeds, you can take your device offline and read at your leisure, although you’ll miss out on link tapping and other features that require connectivity.
The app starts up with all of your feed folders and unread counts showing — simply tap one to expand or collapse it to view the feeds. Tapping any feed provides a list of unread articles in chronological order, from newest to oldest by default. You can reverse that order in the settings if your a FIFO kind of person. Each article shows the title, publication time and the first 40 or so characters of the article. Between that tidbit and the title, I know if I want to tap and read it. I don’t see a way to mark an article as read from this view, although there is a “mark all as read” button for each feed.
Tapping an article brings up a beautiful, easy to read view of the full article as well as any images. From here, you can star it, tap the next unread button, or move up and down through the other articles. A “send to” button at the bottom left offers four additional options: email article, post to Twitter, send to Instapaper, and open in browser. I’m finding that there’s little need for the “open in browser” button. Tapping the article title or any link in the post slides the RSS bit to the left and opens a Safari-like experience for the real deal. All of the Safari controls are in the feed reader: pinch and zoom, cut, copy, paste, etc…
I can’t say that I’ve looked at every RSS reader for the iPhone, but NetNewsWire has me reading feeds with my handset on the go again. And that’s something I haven’t done for at least six months. The performance is solid and the experience is enjoyable. If you use Google Reader and own either an iPhone or iPod Touch, I consider this app a “must-try.”