Byline – Redux

On November 13, 2008

There are many applications out there for reading RSS feeds.  However, the one which has been repeated to me as the cream of the crop when it comes to iPod Touch/iPhone apps is Byline.  An earlier incarnation of this application had already been reviewed here at Whats on iPhone, but I thought I would add my thoughts about the current generation.

For those who are fans of the previous app, the price has been halved to five dollars (granted, that’s more than the recent price drop to four dollars, but it’s still better than it was), so you’re probably feeling a little ripped off right now.  You can still recommend to friends and those who live on news feeds.  Obviously, Phantom Fish listened to all the criticism of the high cost from the last release.

Now I have to give a little confession:  I’ve never used news feed programs before.

 I generally surf the web for information or read web pages that list news feeds such as  Before even using this app, I had to sign up for Google Reader.  I tried signing up using the iTouch directly, but was having problems with it so I just went to the website via my computer browser.

I confess some problems to understanding the toolbar for the application.  It took some practice to understand what each icon meant.  Admittedly, the application is rich with features.  You can view the news item in an internal browser to the application with one tap, write a note on it, or e-mail the news item to a friend.  You can also “star” (bookmark) an item or share an item with a friend back on Google Reader.

Frankly, Phantom Fish should pay some sort of fee to Google (if they don’t already) for piggybacking the functionality of Google Reader.  Without it, Byline wouldn’t even work.  Of course, Google is probably coming out with its own reader soon enough.  I would guess that they’re saving it for one of their Android-powered phones.  Why give up functionality to the competition?

While I like the application, I think a few improvements could be made.  For example, why can’t we sort or filter the news items based on the name of the feed or other criteria?  That seems a pretty obvious function to me.  What if we’re only in the mood to read one news feed?  Here’s another one:  why can’t we edit or alter folders so we can categorize the news items we read.  I’d like to create an “iPod Touch” folder and put all the related news items in it.  I’m not sure if Google Reader has this sort of functionality either, but I think it would improve the news reading experience.  It would become a bit like a portable clipping service.

I recommend Byline for those who are looking for a particular type of news while on the go.  Just be sure to register with Google Reader so you can choose your feeds.  I guess since everyone has to sign up to use Byline, Google does get something out of the service after all.  Everybody wins.

Byline is available HERE in the App Store for $4.99.