Smartr, the personal news aggregator, has a considerable challenge ahead of it: It’s late to the iPad and entering an already crowded market of personalized news aggregation apps like Flipboard, Pulse and the CNN-backed Zite. But this upstart (which actually first appeared on the iPhone back in January) has some impressive, unique features that could give the big dogs a real run for their money.
Smartr doesn’t just rely on social media sources to help personalize your content; it provides you with social outlets, too. You can chat in real-time with other readers, for instance, which gives you an entirely new way to butt heads over who’s more well-read.
You can also directly blog from within the app, which posts stories to your Smartr feed. You can add a description of your blog, and share your postings to it with other Smartr users or with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Posterous. It also automatically creates a web-accessible, Tumblr-type, simple blog, with links back to each story you save, and a “Subscribe” option.
Friends as curators
Smartr also makes it possible for you to use your friends for their particular strengths to help populate your personalized news feed. So, for instance, you can use your existing Twitter list for tech journalists to create a special tech feed of exactly the people you want to hear from — likewise for any Twitter list you have.
Also, you can follow people directly in Smartr. The posts they share will show up in your Smartr feed, and if they’re online, they’ll show up as available to chat in real time about the stories you’re both reading.
Room to grow
Smartr is a good option for those looking for better ways to clear out some of the clutter of Facebook and Twitter and just drill down to stories being shared on those networks, and it has some smart social media features that set it apart from the competition. However, those features need a little more refinement.
For instance, the in-app blogging is a nice touch, but I’m not very likely to use it over something like Tumblr because it acts only as a bare-bones solution. It doesn’t look particularly good, and there’s not much you can do in the way of customization. If the blog itself could stand on its own as a great product, that would really go a long way toward making it feel like a valuable addition to the product. Or, if Smartr just tied in directly to Tumblr in a way that lets you view how your post would look on that service ahead of time, that could be a simpler way to improve the blog function.
That said, Smartr is off to a great start and I’m glad to finally see it on the iPad. Here’s hoping it keeps innovating toward the more social end of the news aggregation spectrum.