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Review: BuzzVoice 3.0 for iPhone

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As a news hound who spends a big part of my day reading news and blogs, I was excited to try out BuzzVoice 3 for the iPhone. Described as “Pandora for news and blogs,” BuzzVoice reads aloud news and blogs. BuzzVoice is perfect for listening to blogs and news on the go, especially when reading isn’t an option such as on the treadmill or driving a car.

The stories are converted to spoken text on the BuzzVoice servers and not in the application. While this does allow for a more reliable conversion from text to speech, you are streaming an audio file to your iPhone. For those of you worried about the AT&T bandwidth cap, the developer assures us that the spoken text audio files are much smaller than streaming radio or VoiP. I too found very little impact on my bandwidth usage when listening to BuzzVoice stories.

I thought the text to speech translation was indeed pretty good, and I had no problems listening to the male and female computer voices. They are computer voices to be sure, and sometimes they do mispronounce words, but BuzzVoice allows you to report mispronunciations through email.

In short, BuzzVoice is a great app that’s worth the $4.99 price. But like other apps that pull from various media sites there are some drawbacks “ not with the app, but rather with the data that it gets from blogs and news sources. More on that later.

When you launch BuzzVoice, you have to create a membership. There is a free membership and a pro membership that costs an additional $4.99 per month (you can get two months free if you pay for an entire year at once). The biggest difference between the two is the “Auto-Stream” feature available with BuzzVoice PRO. This allows you to listen to one story after another without having to touch your iPhone. I would think that this is a must if you are going to use BuzzVoice behind the wheel of a car.

Three Ways to Listen

BuzzVoice gives you three ways to find news. You can follow blogs through your playlist, you can search for topics or pick one of the top trending topics, or you can listen to a pre-compiled “news program.”

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In the Playlist, you select 20 feeds that you want to follow (with PRO, you can follow 100 feeds). By tapping on a feed, you can select a story, and even over 3G, the story starts playing almost immediately. Once the story is finished, if you don’t have the PRO membership, you have to select the next story that you want to hear. The PRO membership allows BuzzVoice to go from one story to the next without having to tap on that next story.

If you don’t want to pony up the monthly membership fees, there is an option for listening to more than one story at a time. BuzzRadio is a series of 10 minute (or 30 for PRO members) newscasts that are grouped based on topics. Included as BuzzRadio “stations” are Apple Radio, Biz Radio, Celebrity Radio, Politics Radio, Social Media Radio, Sports Radio, Tech Radio, Top Blogs Radio and Top News Radio. Additionally, you can set up your own station through your membership by logging into the BuzzVoice Web site.

I also found the search feature to be very useful in BuzzVoice. In addition to searching for a topic, BuzzVoice gives you trending topics so you can stay on top of the hottest news.

It’s in the Feeds

Perhaps the biggest issue I have with BuzzRadio is not really an issue with the app but with the way that it gets its news. To get the stories that are encoded for your listening pleasure, BuzzVoice uses RSS feeds. If you have ever read news through RSS feeds, you know that many media outlets and blogs do not include entire stories in their RSS feeds. The feed for this blog, for example, only includes the story up to the jump.

Unfortunately, large news outlets (Yahoo News, New York Times, CNN, Fox News, ect.) typically only carry a sentence or two in the RSS feed. That means that with most stories (especially “hard” news), you are going to get a headline and the lead (that’s journalism speak for the main topic of the story).

While this gives you a quick overview of lots of news, sometimes you want more information. Fortunately, BuzzFeed to give you a link to the source article, but once you tap, you are taken to that Web page. You’ll have to read the content for yourself.

Feeds also typically carry additional copy that isn’t really part of the story. “Read more…,” categories and tags, links to related stories, and even legalese are dutifully read by BuzzVoice when those extraneous bits of info are part of the feed.

Another disadvantage of the app is it’s lack of multitasking support. Although the audio continues after your iPhone locks, it won’t play once you leave the application.

Final Thoughts

I think that BuzzVoice is a great app for keeping up with your blogs and the latest news. I set it next to my computer and run through my news and blogs as I work. That saves me the time of opening my RSS reader and clicking through stories. It also allows me to follow my feeds in the background while I do other things. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to type and read at the same time.

Depending on how you plan to use the app, the PRO membership might be worth it “ especially if you want to listen to groups of articles while driving down the road. Using the Auto-Stream gives you “BuzzRadio” with the option to listen to tons of articles without touching the iPhone.

For this news hound, BuzzVoice is great because I can follow my feeds without reading a word.

You can find BuzzVoice in the App Store now, priced at $4.99.

BuzzVoice provided a promo code to Just Another iPhone Blog for the review of BuzzVoice 3. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

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  • John, Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough review of BuzzVoice 3.0!

    We're looking at adding background audio streaming in a future update.

    Cheers!
    John Atkinson
    BuzzVoice Co-founder