5 iPad RSS reader apps reviewed

I have been on the hunt for an iPad app for reading the 100+ RSS feeds I'm currently following. With so many feeds to deal with it's important that I find one that meets a few critical features:

  • It must pull in my feeds from my Google Reader account where I manage them all
  • It MUST sync back the items I have read on the iPad
  • I want to be able to share the stories (perferably back through Google Reader)
  • It should have an intuitive & comfy interface

So far I've tried 5 different readers on the iPad. Some are free, others cost a couple bucks. The price of the app isn't considered during these reviews.

Here is how each stacked up to my feature requirements above and my personal review of each.

Google Reader

Note: I almost didn't include this in the list because the Google app isn't a native app. When you click on Reader it simply opens up Safari and takes you to a mobile version of your Google reader account. But, since I AM able to read my feeds using it, I decided to keep it on the list.

Pulling feeds:
Obviously it is able to pull my feeds from my Google Reader account. If it couldn't, I'm sure some programmers at Google would be looking for new employment.

Syncing read items:
The sync is virtually instant. When I click on an article on the iPad, I can hit refresh on my desktop browser and the unread message count is updated. The fact that it happens so quickly isn't really that important, but I thought it was at least worth noting

Share Stories:
If you are familiar with how the share/like/share with note/email functionality works on the desktop version of Google reader, well, this one is virtually identical. Sharing is a simple index finger tap away.

Interface:
The interface is pretty basic. It has the standard Google Reader obtions to view all, starred or shared item, people you follow, recommended items plus all the folders you created yourself. Tapping one of your folders brings up a list of all the feeds in the folder. Tapping the folder name again shows you a list of all unread items from all feeds in that folder listed chronologically.

My review of Google Reader:
Based on how well it does everything above, you'd think I really like it, but I don't. Yes, it handles all the Google-centric functionality just fine, but from a user experience standpoint, it feels very sterile. I'm a bit of a Google fanboy, so I really want to like it. I think a lot of it stems from it being a browser based service rather than a standalone app. That's probably just me being weird, I know.

If you are simply looking for a no-frills way to read your feeeds, this is going to do the trick nicely. If you want a little sexy to go with the muscle, keep looking.

River of News

Pulling feeds:
During the inital app setup, you give it your Google login information and it retreives your unread articles from your feeds. It keeps them nicely sorted in the folders you create in Google Reader.

Syncing read items:
This one stumped me for a while. It didn't seem like there was any way at all to sync the feeds. No matter how many articles I would read, it would never update my Goofle account. A little more digging and I found that in the settings there is an option to toggle “Mark items as read while scrolling.” I turned that on and from that point forward it worked like a charm.

Share Stories:
As far as I can tell, there isn't a way to share back to Google Reader, but you can share to Twitter, Facebook, Instapaper, Tumblr and a couple others.

Interface:
The interface is pretty simple, but I definitely like the 2 column, list/content format.

My review of River of News:
This app is pretty decent. Like I said, I like the 2 column layout, but I'd like to be able to see the title and brief intro (maybe on the left after I select a feed) instead of having to scroll through the entire articles on the right. The main reason being, if I've activated the setting to mark items as read, I don't seem to be able to easily mark an item as unread if I want to save it for later reading.

Pulse News

Pulling feeds:
You have the ability to provide the app your Google account info, but that doesn't mean you are ready to start reading all your feeds. You have to scroll through your list and individually select which feeds you want to add to the app.

Syncing read items:
Yes, it syncs the items you read in the app back to your Google account.

Share Stories:
You aren't able to share to Google Reader it appears, but you are able to post to Facebook, Twitter, Instapaper or send via email. Now, insert a heavy sigh. There is a heart icon on the page that lets you add the article to your “pulse.” While messing around with the app I did this a few times before figuring out what exactly it was doing. Before I knew it I had signed up for an account and now have a new “blog” of shared items. You can check it out at http://vegasgeek.pulsememe.com. Or don't, I won't be updating it.

Intuitive Interface:
I understand what they are going for, but for me it just misses the mark. You scroll up/down to see your feeds, you scroll left/right to see the posts in a feed. Each feed takes up a pretty sizeable chunk of screen realestate.

My review of Pulse News:
I don't really have many good things to say about this app. I don't like having to select which feeds I want to read in the app. I don't like that it shows the last 10 items for each feed no matter if I've read them or not. If you have a bunch of feeds, it's not real simple to find the unread post. The only visual clue is the title is written in white for unread and grey for read. I can appreciate what they are going for in this app, but it completely misses the mark for me.

NewsRack

Pulling feeds:
It sure does. Store your Google login information and it pulls your feeds and folders.

Syncing read items:
Yes, it does sync back to Google and it seems to happen instantly.

Share Stories:
This app lets you share stories to Google reader, Twitter, Delicio.us, Facebook and has an in-app send-by-email function, too.

Interface:
The interface is pretty straight forward. It uses the 2 column layout as well which I like. I also like that when you select a folder it slides in all the feeds for that folder. Clicking on a feed brings up the title and very brief intro for each post.

My review of NewsRack:
Up until recently, this had been my default RSS reading app. I like but don't love the interface, and it has a ton of options in the setting page. But, I had been having a lot of problems with my feeds not syncing back and forth with Google. It was also requiring that I manually click the update button in order to sync my read items. These issues are what sent me in search of a new RSS reader a short while back. And of course, while working with the app doing the research for this post, it worked better than it ever has before. Ahhh, timing…

Reeder

Pulling feeds:
When you first install the app you give it your Google Reader login and it automatically pulls in your feeds and keeps them sorted in your folders.

Syncing read items:
As with Google Reader itself, the sync is basically instant. There's a handy circle icon in the top right to mark an article as unread if you'd like to keep it for desktop viewing as well. That feature is also virtually instant.

Share Stories:
Not only can you share your articles to Google Reader (one tap on the rss icon in the top right corner), but it will also let you send the post to a number of other services like Delicio.us, Instapaper, ReadItLater and Twitter. There wasn't the ability to share to Facebook, which I found a little odd given the rest of the services available.

Interface:
Every screen on this interface has what feels like the right amount of functionality. They have one touch buttons down the left side and across the top to perform specific actions based on the page you are on. None of it feels out of place.

My review of Reeder:
I can sum this one up pretty easily, I love this app. Love it. When it comes to reading articles, the Reeder interface has been the best of the lot. I really like the two panel layout and being able to quickly click between articles and having them displayed in the larger right hand column, still offering me a few of the list down the left.

Conclusion
While there really aren't any losers in this list, they all serve their purpose nicely, for me there is definitely a clear cut winner. Reeder stands out as the best of the bunch. I'll keep the others installed and will check them out again when new updates become available, but until then, Reeder is my reader of choice.

Is there an RSS reader app I should include on my list? Tell me about it in the comments. I'll gladly check it out!

5 Comments

  1. Shelby DeNike on August 23, 2010 at 8:34 am

    I have been using Reeder on my iPhone, its def. worth buying this one if you read RSS feeds.

    • vegasgeek on August 23, 2010 at 9:48 am

      I don't do a lot of RSS reading on my iPhone, but I'll likely pick up Reeder just in case the urge strikes me. 🙂

  2. jeff on August 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Might want to check out My Newspaper for iPad. Newspaper Style / Google Reader Sync – lots of new features in next release.

    • vegasgeek on August 23, 2010 at 8:38 am

      Thanks Jeff! I'll definitely check it out! (I'm a bit of an app junkie.)

  3. dmittleman on January 7, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    I am surprised you didn't review feeddler as that is a leading iPad reader that fits your basic requirements.

    What I am looking for are yur requirements PLUS the ability to post a link with commentary to my wordprress blog. Sort of like pulse but in to wordpress. Anyone here know of an app for that?

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