The perfect iPhone RSS reader? Not quite

If like me, you’re a voracious content whore, you’ll know all about RSS and probably have your own feed solution that works for you.

One of the signs of avid geekery is the use of RSS/Atom syndication. And to a rational geek, the thought of navigating the web page-by-page is like using an analogue dial to change the TV station.

Why go to the mountain, when the mountain can come to you?

Nowadays I use a few solutions for differing feed/bookmarking needs. And many of these services and applications are cleverly integrated. In fact, it’s become very annoying when apps that I do like don’t play nice together.

One of these frustrations surfaced when I started looking for an RSS reader for my iPhone/iTouch. On the Mac I use NetNewsWire with Google Reader.  On my Linux netbook (or on a WinPC) I use straight-up Google Reader with the Helvetireader userscript to sex things up a bit.  Desktop NNW and Google reader both integrate beautifully other my other apps and services.

Even though the logical solution would be to use newsgators NetNewsWire for iPhone, I had heard good things about Phantom Fish’s Byline.  So I paid the £2.39 for Byline and was suitably impressed by the Macish GUI and the excellent caching of feeds (key USP for the iTouch which is regularly offline).

So that frustration I was talking about? Well, it happened when I wanted to post a story to twitter. I found I had to jump-out into Safari and then C&P the link into Tweetie. Also, there is no native Instapaper, Delicious or tumblr support.

I’ve subsequently tried the free ad-supported NetNewsWire app (a premium version, sans ads, is available), and it does have native twitter and Instapaper support (I use Instapaper for articles I want to read and Delicious for links I want to remember), and from Instapaper I can post directly to tumblr or forward to tweetie or Birdhouse. It’s a neat workflow.

So what else do I think of NetNewsWire on the iPhone? It’s pretty damn good. The GUI is great, if not quite as sexy as Byline, and it seems very stable. But sadly, there is no off-line mode for the iTouch.

As with many solutions, I want something from two different applications. I want Byline’s off-line caching option and NetNewsWire’s seamless integration with the rest of my workflow.

C’mon developers, it’s not like I want the moon on a stick.


In summary, if you’re looking for a RSS reader, both apps are great — if not quite perfect for my specific needs. At $4 (£2.39) for Byline and $5 (£2.99) for NetNewsWire Premium, I very much doubt you’ll regret stumping for either.

Also, if have got Byline and you’re just after basic Instapaper integration, you can try this hack. Works a treat. Tried and tested.


UPDATE: I should note, I have just downloaded Reeder, another RSS reader, and things are looking VERY good. An update pending.

UPDATE: a review of the excellent Reeder is here.