App.news is a social news reader app for iOS that uses App.net, an ad-free social network that recently hit 100,000 registered users, to serve up interesting articles and original journalism.
It’s easy to compare App.net with Twitter, given that both services encourage users to create an account using an @username and post short messages – 140 characters for Twitter, 256 for App.net – for followers to read in real-time. App.net offers a social feed and API, however, that other developers can leverage to prioritize individual aspects of the service, such as online file-storage and photo-sharing.
App.news, however, sets out to give users a streamlined news reading experience by stripping out any multimedia content contained within articles, similar to Flipboard and Pocket.
How it works
Launching the app will immediately show a stream of messages posted by various news publications on App.net. Users aren’t required to log-in at this point; literally anyone can download the app and start trawling the service for an interesting story.
Headlines are shown as brief messages, alongside a tiny profile picture on the left hand-side and a URL on the right. The design isn’t much to look at, but it’s clean and refreshingly simple to navigate. This is a bare-bones experience, in short, with little thought given to aesthetics or visual flair.
A quick tap will show an excerpt from the piece, combined with the original App.net post underneath. Users can then hit the eye icon above to see the original article on the mobile Web, or tap the page symbol to see a clean text-only version, similar to Pocket.
The reading experience
While looking at an excerpt, it’s also possible to flip to a new article simply by swiping from left-to-right, or vice versa, across the screen at anytime. As mentioned previously, it’s perfectly functional but lacks the polish and design enjoyed by similar services.
It’s not a deal-breaker, but it certainly detracts from the overall reading experience. As with physical newspapers and magazines, part of the enjoyment that stems from reading articles is attributed to the layout and design. Creative and thoughtful design can make a huge difference when wondering whether to read a feature to the very end.
The connectivity with App.net means that users can also log-in with their dedicated account and see a stream of articles that have been shared through the individual accounts they’re following. It works in the exact same way as the global stream, but helps tailor and restrict the sheer quantity of articles being posted to the service.
Through the stream, users can also reply and repost stories that they like, or choose to share by email, Twitter or Facebook. It’s not particularly innovative, but does provide a touch-point and help remind users that they’re directly interacting with App.net.
Tapping the menu icon in the top left-hand corner of the screen also reveals an area where the user can search for specific stories using a hashtag. Previous hashtags appear in a list below; an accessible way to track ongoing or breaking stories.
The bottom line
App.news is one of the only dedicated news reader apps on iOS that showcases stories shared through App.net. It’s a robust and compelling proposition, but one that falls short due to a bland interface and design.
If Information Addicts can find a way to reinvigorate the app’s image, this could be one of the most useful and compelling apps for App.net. However, it’s also worth noting that App.news displays ads along the bottom of the screen – something which goes against the philosophy of App.net – but offers an ad-free version via an $2.99 in-app purchase.
“Even though App.net has promised to be an ad-free platform, we have always been open to apps using this business model and think that there is a place for them in the ADN app ecosystem,” Aaron Blyth, Marketing Manager at App.net said.
➤ App.news | iOS
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Image Credit: FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images