I love RSS Feeds. They’re a little more focused than Twitter, and I love the way they encourage long-form article reading. At iPad.AppStorm, we frequently cite Reeder as one of those must-have iPad apps for people who have just purchased their wonderful new tablet, but we’ve never once posted our thoughts on what makes the app so great. Today, we rectify that.
Reeder, by Silvio Rizzi, is one of those rare apps that seemed to birth an entire genre. I use it on my iPhone, iPad and Macs, and despite the constantly growing and changing competition, I have yet to encounter a single RSS Reader that I like more.
Reeder’s design is beautiful. The off-white sepia colours are easy on the eyes (not to mention the app’s signature style) and the typography is very easy to read. It’s simple, elegant and understated. Plus, it comes with some smart and intuitive gestures built right in.
Swipe to the left on an article title and you can mark it as unread. Swipe to the right on the title and you’ll favourite it, marking it with a star so that it never gets removed from Reeder’s cache, and if you’d prefer, you can set swiping to the right to send the article to your favourite “read it later” service instead. Pinching out on a newsfeed allows you to get a quick glance at its most recent articles, and swiping to the left from any article brings you back to the newsfeed’s unread article list.
Not that you’ll spend a lot of time swiping, the vast majority will be spent reading. And when you’re reading, you’ll find that Reeder’s article view keeps clean and simple. Holding the iPad horizontally reveals the selected article on the right and your chosen feed on the left. Holding it vertically focuses on the article with only an unobtrusive control bar on the left.
Compared to its competition, Reeder is the most straightforward RSS reader in presentation. It keeps it simple without sacrificing important functionality. It’s not perfect, though; the darker colour of the control bar can admittedly be visually distracting. It would be nice if the colour was muted and matched the lighter colour of the articles (as it does on the iPhone), but quibbles like these are very minor.
Features You’ll Want (And Some You Won’t)
If Reeder has any merit that doubles as its Achille’s Heel, it is simply its truckload of features. Some are great (the sharing pane is filled to the brim with options), and some are bizarre or useless. The built-in Readability mobilizer is one of those bizarre, useless choices that I don’t understand.
Reeder presents your RSS feeds in a clean, easy-to-read manner. It’s fantastic, and by far the one reason you’d want to use Reeder over other similar apps. The inclusion of a Readability mobilizer is an odd choice because it attempts to do the same thing, but it takes forever to load and frequently misbehaves. It will sync with your Readability account, but I don’t suspect that there are a large percentage of Reeder users with Readability. I would argue that, at the $4.99 premium asking price, Silvio’s target market aligns more with Instapaper’s (but, for the record, I wouldn’t want a default Instapaper mobilizer either).
It’s also an odd choice because it tries to extend Rizzio’s grasp on the market. When Reeder debuted in 2009, people read differently than they do today. Integrating Readability (and another service called Fever, which I don’t use and therefore couldn’t test) is an effort to keep up with the changes in the industry over the past three years. It’s noble, but in my opinion, misguided — Reeder has always been a Google Reader app first and foremost. It’s usually best for app developers to focus on the one element that they have pocketed and keep improving it instead of adding new features. Otherwise, you end hip with features you won’t need. Thankfully, Readability and other mobilizers can be disabled in the app settings.
That being said, there are features you will use in Reeder that are fantastic. The first, and most notable one, is the sharing button. The amount of sharing services that Rizzio has integrated into his app are remarkable and I can’t imagine anybody feeling like there’s something missing, regardless of what services they use and would like to integrate.
There are a lot of settings in the app as well, but they are all accessible in the Settings app on your iPad instead of the actual Reeder app. In that regard, Reeder for iPad is different than Reeder for iPhone, which makes all the settings accessible from the app itself. I’m afraid to say I prefer access to the settings be available within the app, and that the disparity between the iPad and iPhone versions of the app left me a little confused.
The Missing Feature
Worth mentioning is the fact that Reeder does not allow you to add an RSS Feed within the app itself. Some of the competition (Mr. Reader comes to mind) offer that functionality. Instead of searching for and subscribing to an RSS Feed within the app, Reeder forces you to hit the “RSS” button as you browse the web. You’ll be redirected to the app in order to finish subscribing. If this is a deal breaker for you, check out our review for Mr. Reader – it may get you better bang for your buck.
Does Reeder Still Stack Up?
The competition has really changed since Reeder debuted on the iPhone in 2009. The iPad changed a lot of things as well, particularly with the introduction of popular (and free) RSS Readers like Flipboard and Zite. I’m sure apps like the ever-growing Mr. Reader have also taken a chomp out of Reeder’s market share.
But I’m not sure that Silvio Rizzi has anything to worry about. The competition offers different features and some of them offer more, but Reeder still has the cleanest presentation, bar none. If you’re like me and you like to read your RSS feeds, Reeder is still the best and easiest way to get that done. Oddities like Readability integration can be turned off in the settings if you don’t use them, and Reeder’s clean (but well-organized) presentation gives it a leg up over the rest of the market. Reeder is still highly recommended.