I like to keep up with my RSS feeds during the day and using Google Reader in Safari is very cumbersome so I started looking for a replacement. What I found was Byline by Phantomfish for the iOS. My criteria for an iOS app to replace Google Reader in Safari is quite easy to fulfill.
- Native app without Safari
- Works with my current Google Reader
- Easy to setup
- Easy to understand and use
- Doesn’t crash
I’ve been testing Byline version 3.2.6 (Free version) which came out December 21st. I read the reviews, most of which on the first few pages dealt with a previous version that seemed to crash a lot. That seems to be the only real negative that I saw in the current set of reviews in the App Store. After installing Bylines my initial thought was “nice interface.” I believe that initial impressions are important with an end user. If it looks pleasing, is easy to install and it is easy to use you will win over a lot of users even if some parts of the program aren’t fully baked.
There is one thing that stuck out at me as odd though. There is no easy way to upgrade the free version to the paid version. Every once in a while a Fusion ad is for an Upgrade to Byline Pro version, but it’s random and as an end user I wouldn’t keep clicking in and out of a category to get it to pop up. If Phantomfish wants my $4.99 then they should make it easier. They could place a button in the settings to upgrade that goes away when you do. I’ve done that before with other apps I own. Just wondering what the programmers and developers were thinking on that one. Easy for the end user makes it easier to make the upgrade cash.
Works Without Safari with Google Reader
It integrates with the Google Reader as it’s own app, not in Safari. That is a BIG plus for anyone using an iPhone because of the size of the device and the accuracy you need with the Google Reader app in Safari. More than once a session I click the wrong page link or directional link during an RSS session with Safari and Google Reader. It is very frustrating, whereas there have been no incorrect taps for any session that I have done with Byline. The opening page looks like this:
Depending on your settings you might not have anything except Notes and Starred Items in the start up page. You can set Bylines to show you all posts, whether they are read or unread, so you could have all of your post categories showing all the time if you set it to show all read posts too. Not sure why you would want to do that on a mobile device because if you read an article and want to save it for further reading on a PC you can just “Star” it. The same goes for finding it later on the iPhone, if you starred the post you can open Starred Items to read it again or show it to a friend. You also have the choice to Open in Safari, Copy Link, Send by Email and Post to Twitter, so finding the post isn’t a concern.
Easy to Setup
This is probably one of the things that turns off so many end users, even me as an advanced user. It was extremely easy to setup. I entered my Google Account name and password to link with Reader and it synced right away. Here is the Settings Page in three parts:
I made one change to the settings you see above which is circled in red. The Manual Control Only is set by default to OFF, but I wanted to control sync’s so I changed the setting to only let Bylines sync when I wanted it to. Having it sync all the time is a drain on the battery like a push application. As you can see the settings are quite simple to understand. Every other setting is the default setting and as you can see it has the ability to connect to Twitter, Instapaper, and Read it Later if you have those accounts.
Easy to Understand and Use
From the main page it is quite easy to either select All Items or the category that you want to read. The free version has ads powered by Fusion inserted at the top of list and interspersed between posts in a list. Here is a look at a list of mine with ads and an opened post itself. I felt that it was quite easy to navigate the interface to read what I wanted, to star an item and to email it. I didn’t have a problem with the ads and I have not spent the $4.99 for the pleasure of not having ads. Pictures display very clearly and it has the normal pinch to expand or shrink.
Bylines Free Version is a very good tool for reading your RSS feeds on an iPhone if you use Google Reader. I am enjoying the ability to read what I want when I want and have the post look like it does on my PC in Google Reader, albeit smaller.