Google Reader apps for iPhone

iPhone Google Reader

Decided to have a look at Google Reader for iPhone apps today. First just a note about the web interface: It is very good! Obviously has (almost) all the features of the full web version, and is continually being developed as Google learns new tricks with their "mobile touch" interfaces. It is missing the "Send to" menu, and is obviously only usable when online, but it's certainly very usable.

On the iPhone I'd been using NetNewsWire, but found that because I really didn't like it, I was rarely using it and rarely checking Google Reader while mobile, since it was not a pleasant experience. I downloaded three apps to test out: Byline, Reeder and Mobile RSS.

The table shows the major features of these apps, and I've just got a few bullet points on each:

MobileRSS - free (ad supported) or $3.99

  • + Most features of all four apps.
  • + Whole folder or individual feed views
  • - No option to view feeds with no new items (exception: items read via the app go to "Read" section)
  • - Scrolling totally unresponsive when syncing
  • - Preferences occasionally laggy

Special mention for being able to move feeds between tags/folders and being able to unsubscribe.

Byline - $4.99

  • + Option to Cache only on wifi connection
  • + Toggle between timeline or split by feed
  • + Read / Unread toggle by swiping on list (but not publicised or available inside an item. Would be nice to open item, then mark unread from within the item and move on)
  • + Toggle between chronological or feed sorting in folder view
  • + Good granular caching options (images and/or web pages, for starred items, items with notes and "new" items)
  • + Keeping read tags/folders toggled in preferences but slightly annoying to toggle since it's in
  • - Read folders clog up view, needs sort by unread option while read folders are visible.
  • - No individual feed view
  • - Caching is horrendously slow

Reeder - $2.49

  • + Best looking interface, although slightly odd animations between states.
  • + Simple toggle between Starred / Unread / All at top level.
  • + Toggle between chronological or feed sorting in folder view
  • + Starred / Unread / Read toggle in individual feed view
  • + Best interface for sharing through different services
  • - Interface is not the most intuitive. Fine once you learn it, but bit of a learning curve. The online help page is required.
  • - Offline storage doesn't cache images, or the original website sources. Only caches unread articles.

NetNewsWire - free (ad supported) or $5.99

  • + Collapsible folder / feed interface is good
  • + "Next unread" button
  • + Toggle individual feeds on/off
  • - Feature poor
  • - "Works with" Google Reader, rather than being designed for it.

Typically, while going through all these apps today I found out that MobileRSS and Reeder both have updates pending with Apple, and Byline's current price is a special "anticipating 3.0, a major update." So I'll doubtless be re-visiting all of these apps in the near future. Most importantly, MobileRSS and Reeder will both be getting my essential "keep unread" feature, which at the moment is the one big advantage Byline has over me. If I had to chose one app at the moment, I'd probably chose MobileRSS, but as soon as Reeder gets the "keep unread" option, it will probably become my app of choice, despite the extra features of Mobile RSS.


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