Summly for iPhone reminds me a lot of Flipboard; it’s an app that automates the news for you, so that all you really have to do is read little snippets. But my real reason for trying Summly out was because Stephen Fry kind of told me to:
Swiping through articles is a breeze, and it’s beautifully animated to boot. Swiping down will show you the full article view, and swiping up will leave the current section and head back to the home screen. There’s very little extra chrome in Summly, so the whole app just feels like sliding panels full of news, organized by topic. There isn’t any integration with Google Reader or Twitter feeds, though you can share to services at most any time by tapping-and-holding.
Summly seems to have teamed up with specific publishers around the world, and intelligently parses content into a ~400-word Summly. This means that a computer algorithm is setting your news up for you, and it works a surprising amount of the time, though I did still see some bizarre headlines, like “Apple says Samsung Galaxy Note”. Apple says what about the Samsung Galaxy Note? I have no idea. I had to tap through to read more.
Summly can create new sections based on keywords like “baseball” or “iPhone”. Summly will then find articles that match those keywords best, and create new sections for you to read. These sections provide a decent variety of news, but they don’t mark your place at all. If you accidentally leave a section without reading it to the end, you’ll have to scroll through all of your read content all over again when you come back.
It can also be a little difficult to remember which gestures do what. Summly uses animated cues for horizontal swipes: scroll a little bit to the right, and you’ll start to see the next article. However, there are no such cues for swiping up or down, which makes executing those actions feel a little more jarring.
Overall, however, Summly is really impressive for a first release. It’s a fun, simple way to catch up on a couple of subjects. It’s not as fast as Twitter, and not nearly as customizable as RSS, but I think Summly has done a good job of carving out its niche. There’s very, very little setup involved, so if you’d like to download an app and get right to the news, give Summly a try for free.