Review: NoteStream app

 

 

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How often do we read articles on our smartphones? I read a ton every day on my iPhone, whether it's in a browser experience from Facebook or Twitter, or straight from Safari. Some websites have caught up to this century and have mobile layouts, but others don't. So how do we solve this problem?

Enter NoteStream (free). This app provides articles, called "NoteStreams," in a cohesive manner that is easy on the eyes and on the fingers. 

When I was first approached to review this app, I was pretty confused. What do I click? How do I navigate this thing? What is going on? I think this is a detriment that comes with not having a landing page that opens every time the app opens. But after a chat with the nice people over at NoteStream, I was able to figure it out.

The purpose of NoteStream is to provide a clean, hassle-free reading experience for your iPhone. The stories are curated for reading on your phone, so they're set up in pages instead of a never-ending scrolling experience like most articles. Sometimes, when you get to the end of scrolling articles, you have to tap a tiny "page 2"  to get to the next page. That's a pain! With NoteStream, you just keep swiping like you're reading the pages of a book.

The problem the app is trying to solve is the messy iPhone reading experience, and it does this. However, the content isn't there yet. The app sponsors a select few publishers and authors, including CondeNast Travel and writers from the Huffington Post. NoteStream reaches out to authors who they would like to feature on the app and coortinate the details with them, bringing that author's content straight to your app.

With so many news sites and magazines having their own apps, however, this could be a problem. 

 

There was recently a 2015 update to NoteStream, which introduced the PowerWheel, which is a navigation tool that shows up on the bottom of the screen. Check out the screenshot above. It allows you to access the "Explore" screen, above, which provides a tiled list of topics to peruse. You can also access your bookmarks, ratings, "My Streams" (which can be viewed offline), and sharing options.

There are a lot of content-based reading apps on the market today, but as I previously mentioned, most of them are publication-centric and don't have a "page-through" reading experience like NoteStream does. The apps that aggregate web content, like Feedly for example, provide a simple reading experience for consumers. Kifi, a new reading app that collects different articles into "topics," is similar to NoteStream. However, I'm not sure HOW it is able to provide such content. Earlier, I mentioned that NoteStream sponsors a select few publications and is trying to expand content.

Pros:

  • Exclusive content: you can read CondeNast Traveler for free!
  • Variety of topics: read about beer, travel, fashion, science, and history in one place.
  • Author biographies: on the internet these days, it's hard to learn about authors. This feature allows readers to get to know their content-providers better.

Cons:

  • Navigation: the PowerWheel is confusing. Having a landing page or a home menu without having to click the PowerWheel would help navigation immensely.
  • Design: this may seem like a trivial point to some, but it would look a lot less cluttered and confusing with a fresh coat of paint, in my opinion.
  • Where's the content?: This app is new, so they're still getting their footing in the digital publishing app space. I'm sure as time goes on, this will improve.

 

Final Verdict:

Over all, the idea is a good one. NoteStream provides a reading experience that is comfortable, much unlike the reader views from social media networks. If you're interested in learning about new topics in a totally non-mainstream way, along with being able to save content for offline reading, then NoteStream is for you. However, the lack of a navigation page threw me off. I wish the menu button was a little more intuitive, or maybe that the directions for the PowerWheel showed up again (or could be found within the app). 

iPhone Life Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

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Abbey Dufoe's picture

Abbey Dufoe is a freelance writer and a web producer at a nonprofit based in Princeton, NJ. She's always itching for the newest iOS gadget (current favorite - the Apple Watch). She tweets and blogs about the earth and the Internet on Twitter at @abbeydufoe and at abbeydufoe.com.