News reader clients are nothing new to the iOS ecosystem. In fact, we reviewed a couple of them here and here as well. To find good ones though, is a different matter, which is why this time we’ll take a better look at a promising new one, called Unread (iPhone/iPod only, $2.99), while at the same time we compare it to the App Store’s most popular news reader app Reeder (universal, $4.99).
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Interface and Design
Both Reeder and Unread share the same philosophy of minimal design, but each implements it in very different ways.
Unread speaks closer to the iOS 7 design style than Reeder does, showcasing ‘flatter’ icons and a more modern font, as well as offering more contrast for reading your news in either of its two themes (Day and Night as default, although there are hidden themes).
Its interface also looks a bit less cluttered.
On the other hand, Reeder offers more themes right from the start, with less ‘extreme’ variations among them (White, Light, Dark and Black). I also found its font, although less modern-looking, is better suited for reading long pieces of text.
Reeder also comes with a hefty amount of options that Unread simply doesn’t provide (more on that later), although that comes at the cost of a more busy-looking interface.
An issue of Unread about its interface that kept nagging me is that for some reason there are very few buttons to navigate across menus, news and options, so you are forced to use gestures to do so. This will definitely seem convenient for some users, but to be abrupt about it and remove buttons altogether does not seem like the best choice.
Options and Features
Both news reader apps support the two most popular news aggregators (in my opinion) – Feedbin and Feedly – but Reeder has a slight advantage here, since it offers support for more services.
This is just the start though. Both Unread and Reeder come with their own unique options, but in this regard Unread is still too limited in my opinion, especially if you have used Reeder before or if you are used to have more flexibility when it comes to reading your news.
Here are just a couple of examples that I consider important.
Unread lets you browse all your news either as one huge pool or by folder. However, selecting any of these takes you immediately to a list of your news sources, and there is no way to go straight to the news articles. So if, say, I tap on my ‘Apple’ news folder, I’m taken to all the news ‘sources’ instead to the news themselves.
In Unread, I also couldn’t find an option to mark many news at once as read, which is an option I find tremendously helpful if you have to deal with several news articles.
One major flaw of Unread that I still find it very strange they overlooked is the enormous amount of space that each news article takes on the news list view.
Compare that to Reeder, which can display up to six or seven news articles at a time.
People who use news readers usually subscribe to several news sources (hundreds sometimes), and the idea of getting a news reader app (on a mobile device nonetheless) is to manage your news and get through them as fast as possible, so the approach of Unread in this aspect really baffles me.
On the other hand, a couple of things that I really liked about Unread is the way it formats news, with clearly differentiated font sizes and just the right use of color here and there to make them more readable.
Its full-screen view for reading news is also very welcome and a no-brainer, and I still wonder why Reeder doesn’t offer something similar yet. Unread’s persistent browser sits on the same spot feature-wise, but on the downside, it kept crashing every now and then, something that I rarely (if ever) experienced with Reeder.
Usability and Final Word
After all is said and done, these are apps meant for reading news, so that is the most important aspect by which they have to be measured.
In this regard, Reeder outdoes Unread in almost every metric (font choice, background options, customization, speed, intuitiveness). And as it stands now, I can’t recommend Unread to anyone but basic users of news reading services or those who like any specific aspect of it.
That said, Unread is still a very capable news reader, especially for a relatively new release, and I’m sure its developers will gradually improve the app in subsequent updates to address some of the aspects where it lacks.