Despite the fact that Web apps are viewed by some as the ugly stepchild of the iPhone, my most-used app is Google Reader. It’s like Marvelous Marvin Hagler—the fantastic, undisputed middleweight boxing champion back in the 1980s—because it’s so much better than its rivals. Part of the reason it’s such a great app is that Google has regularly and lovingly tweaked it, adding niceties that make it easier to use and features that bring it ever closer to the capabilities of its desktop counterpart.
Even though Google Reader is a Web app, it consistently feels zippier to work with than native RSS reader apps. Google reader is especially quick with its display of article summaries and full articles provided by RSS feeds, and when navigating between different feed folders.
Google Reader has a number of other stand-out features. For example, it refreshes just the relevant section of a page when you star an item or expand out from an item’s title to its summary view. This helps speed things up. Also, it’s easy to access other Google Web apps (Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar, etc.) from Google Reader via the slender bar at the top of the screen. I also like the placement of the Refresh, Feeds, and Mark All As Read buttons at the top and the Feeds and Mark These Items As Read buttons at the bottom; it makes it easy to access these features. Finally, there is very little that you can do with a full desktop browser that you can’t do on the iPhone. All in all, Google Reader is a superb iPhone application.
Google Reader and other RSS reader apps are my primary (and many days my only) source of news about the world and the topics I find most interesting, including technology, mobile tech, and the iPhone platform. Increasingly, I spend the lion’s share of my time on the iPhone, whether it be catching up with feeds at night during TV commercial breaks, before nodding off to sleep, or as part of a slow wake-up routine first thing in the morning. In doing so, I’ve learned a lot about the many RSS options available for the iPhone.
Other RSS solutions for the iPhone
Despite my love for Google Reader, I’m interested in other RSS options and have tried out many native RSS apps. Since Google Reader is my primary RSS solution, lack of support for Google Reader is a deal-breaker for me. By support I mean full two-way Google Reader sync, not just one-time import. Some users will be satisfied with a standalone RSS app—one that is used only on the iPhone and does not synchronize with an online RSS service. For me, Google Reader support is vital. I need to be able to star items on the iPhone and know they’ll show up as starred when I check things on my desktop browser. (Starring an item places it in your “Starred Items” feed, which marks an item I want to come back and read later on.) I also need to be certain that when I “share” an item, it will appear in all the services that “pull” directly from my Shared Items page (Friendfeed for example).
With all this in mind, here’s a brief rundown of a few native iPhone RSS apps that I’ve looked at. All of these are available in the iTunes App Store.