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Review: Reeder RSS for iPhone, spelled strangely, but done right

[version 1.2]

A lot of people have been scouring the App Store for a great RSS reader, and many of them are still searching. I ‘d argue that this is because they ‘ve been going about it all wrong: when you ‘re looking for the best RSS experience on the iPhone, you don ‘t type out ‘reader ‘, you search for Reeder.

[click on a thumbnail to see a larger version]

Fast ” like, crazy fast
Until Reeder, my favourite RSS app on the iPhone was the free Google Reader web app that runs inside of Safari. It loaded items quickly, synced instantly with my Google account, and could open things easily in Safari because, well, it was already in Safari.

Reeder feels almost as fast as the Google web app, but with a much cleaner interface. This is likely because it currently lacks the ability to cache images like most other native RSS apps, but the developer has confirmed that this functionality is included in the upcoming 2.0 update.

I have about 41 feeds in my Google Reader account and check them at least twice a day, and I average about 150 new items per day. This was enough to significantly slow other RSS apps (NetNewsWire and Newsprint) while they refreshed the content. Reeder usually takes about 10 seconds in total to sync all of the unread, starred, and noted items to my device, and I can use the app at full speed the whole time. I was also surprised to find that any changes made on the device were synced almost instantaneously to my Google Reader account ” no manual sync needed.

Reeding feeds and folders

Reeder features a very abstract interface with a very low colour contrast, meaning that a lot of things can look confusing, or very much alike, until you get used to them. The main screen features a bottom bar with three tabs and a refresh button. The tabs correspond to the starred, unread, and all feeds views. These views are sheer brilliance, since they allow you to see unread and starred items on a per-feed basis (and you have full control over how long these items remain via the app ‘s settings).

The general layout of the main Reeder screen is as follows: buttons for unread , starred, and noted items reside up top, with the feed list just below them, and the folders list at the bottom.

Folder support is very rich in Reeder, allowing you to view folders at macro level (showing items from the feeds within in one giant list) or display a folder as a list of feeds, each with its own unread or star counts. This latter view is important, since, like Google Reader, feeds that reside in a folder won ‘t show in the master Feeds list. So if you ‘ve put Engadget into a folder called ‘Tech Sites ‘ then you ‘ll have to tap on the arrow on the ‘Tech Sites ‘ folder to navigate to the Engadget feed.

Reeding items
Viewing individual items, whether within an individual feed or a folder, is a delightfully tactile experience in Reeder. Swiping left on an item will star it, and swiping right will mark it as read.  This swiping does feel just a little bit clumsy right now, and it can be too easy to start scrolling when you actually meant to swipe, but I ‘ve been told by the developer that this has improved in 2.0.

Read and unread items are differentiated by the presence of a small dot on the left (indicating unread status), as well as the headline’s transparency level (read ones appear faded, unread are bold). Tapping on an item will take you into the individual item view and download the associated picture, if one is available.
The item view is another of Reeder ‘s greatest strengths, simply because the layout is so well thought out. Tapping on the headline will take you to the item ‘s actual URL, and tapping on the website icon on the top-right will load the actual website.

Feeds are loaded in full as long as the website supports it (JAiB has a partial feed), and all of the other controls (mark as unread, star, next/prev, etc.) are laid along the bottom of the screen, making for very thumb navigation very easy. I find this layout much more efficient than the one featured in Newsprint or even the famous Tweetie 2, where the next/previous buttons are located at the top of the screen.

The extra actions available in item view are: note, share, Pinboard, Instapaper, Twtter, Mail Link, and Mail Article. Open in Safari is strangely absent in the current version, but it is coming in 2.0.

Offline Mode
Reeder works very well in offline mode, but it won ‘t show you any pictures, since it doesn ‘t cache any of them at present. Any changes you make while offline will be synced to Google whenever you regain a connection (although you will need to manually press the refresh button, or simply reload the app to auto sync).

Conclusion
Reeder is one of those rare apps that is everything I want it to be and more. It features all of the delicious speed of the Google Reader web app in a much cleaner and tighter package, and it features an interface that ‘s just delightfully different from any of the other readers I ‘ve used. All the screens are fully portrait and landscape compatible, so you can use the app in whatever position is comfortable for you.

I realize that I ‘ve mentioned the upcoming 2.0 update (preview here) on many occasions throughout this article, but I only did so because I had the information ready. This isn ‘t one of those cases of wishful thinking and wistful glances at possible future updates: Reeder is already here ” right now ” and it ‘s quite simply the most usable and enjoyable RSS experience I ‘ve had on the iPhone.

Reeder is available for $2.99 on the App Store.

The app was provided by Silvio Rizzi for review on Just Another iPhone Blog. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

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  • Tim

    I purchased Reeder last week. I'd heard so many positive things about the app and was curious to see what all the fuss was about.

    I must say I'm more than a little impressed. Within hours it replaced Byline on my iPhone. Byline's a reasonably good app, but I rarely used it…and when I did it always felt a little slow and tedious. By comparison I find I open up Reeder a few times a day – the speedy response and well thought-out UI won me over and makes it a genually useful tool. I'm looking forward to checking out Reeder 2 and hope they have an iPad version in the works as well.

  • I'm quite happy with the speed as well. Thanks for stopping by, Tim.

  • I've had just a handful of crashes but otherwise I totally agree —
    very stable, solid app.

  • I used Byline for a long time, but I switched to Reeder a few weeks back. I love it. Very stable, doesn't crash.

  • I'm using MobileRSS and I loved it.

  • Agreed – one of the very best apps on the market. It's worth having just for the Instapaper integration!

  • After reading Tim and netgrrl's comments I feel I am now forced to switch after singing Byline praises for so long (still think it was the best in the beginning of RSS apps).

    If there were a few things that I was looking for outside of Byline, it would be speed, Twitter integration and fast, guaranteed sync'ing (byline is notoriously slow and doesn't always sync items despite having an active connection).

    Thanks for the great review Thomas.

    • Thanks Michael and let us know how you like it post-purchase

  • Buzz

    Switched from MobileRSS to Reeder.
    Very happy, the best reader for the iPhone I've used.
    Love all the Instapaper, Readlater, Twitter, Delicious, Mail integration… and speedy!

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  • At the ap store, the oen reviewer says it crashes as it exits. Have you noticed that?

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  • Max

    Excellent app! One of those that must be ustarnovit on your iphone. By the way, here’s another review (in Russian) – http://yablochno.com/reviews/1096