I have been a happy NetNewsWire user for years now. As I posted in the past, I understand a lot of users have moved to Google Reader, but I still like my NetNewsWire client for the Mac and especially the ability to read articles offline.
NetNewsWire was acquired and integrated with Newsgator a few years ago and now it’s all free (this is free publicity for the newsgator guys!). This means that I can read my news on both web and client interfaces and get everything synchronized. I’ve started using the mobile version more or less a year ago and while I still don’t understand why they don’t use their .mobi extension, I think they have made a good effort. They started with an iPhone version only and quickly had to make it at least XHTML Basic so that other mobile users could access it (the full web version, for example, is too AJAXy even for clients like Opera Mini).
I have recently upgraded my iPhone to version 2.0 and immediately installed the free NetNewsWire for iPhone client (this is more free publicity for you guys). The interface is very similar to the Mac version, adapted to the small screen, of course. Every time you load the main page it tries to update the feeds. Only feeds with unread items are displayed. This is very reasonable as on the mobile device you’d rather want to quickly go to new items (while on the Mac client you can also see feeds with old items and read them again). Nothing particularly fancy happens, you select the feed, get a full list of news items, read them. You can make the entire feed as read.
This is, all in all, everything you would expect from a mobile feed-reader.
I have to say that I’m surprised that some of the good features of the mobile web version haven’t been translated into the iPhone-client. The mobile web client has a minimalistic approach, in fact news items in a feed are split into pages of 10 or so items. The iPhone client lists all the items in one big page. Scrolling to the oldest news is of course much quicker than on the mobile web version, but at the same time, if you have a very active feed and haven’t kept up for a few days you’ll find yourself with 100+ items in one long page. In the mobile web version you may mark all the items in one page as read, but on the iPhone client you may only mark all the feed as read. Imagine I have a feed with 100 items; I start from the oldest (that’s what I normally do) I go up; as I read articles they are marked as read, but of course I will not read them all. If I have to close the application, when I come back I will only see the unread items of that same news feed, but since I could not mark “as read” items that I did not want to specifically read, I will still find them there. This means that I have to go back to the bottom and go through the same articles again. I will be quicker, of course, but if I could mark groups of items as I can do in the mobile web version, that would be much easier.
Another feature that is present in the mobile web version and not in the iPhone-client is the ability to mark a single item as “read” without opening it. Again, in the iPhone client you either really open it, or you’ll have to mark the entire feed as read.
For some reason in the iPhone client is possible to mark items as “clippings”, but you are not able to see the “Clippings” folder. Clippings are the same as “starring” an item on Google Reader, news items that you want to store for some reason, they will appear in a special folder and not go away even if they have disappeared from the feed.
While it’s obvious that the mobile web version is synchronized in real time as you are in fact connected directly with the newsgator site, it’s unclear how synchronization happens on the iPhone client. You may at any time force the feed update, but you have no way to force synchronization and there is no preference pane. Using the Mac client almost at the same time gave me the feeling like the two were a bit out of sync. On the iPhone I am often offline (I only use Wifi) thus the ability to force-sync would be much appreciated and I think it’s something that is particularly useful for a mobile client in general. You never know if and how the user is really online and actually the advantage (maybe the ONLY one) of the NewNewsWire client is that you can read news offline.
The browser and some, but not all applications in the iPhone let you use it either in landscape or portrait mode. I got used to it and I like it. Why can’t I read my news in landscape mode? This is definitely a needed feature for the NetNewsWire client.
Overall I think that feed-readers show how thin is the list of advantages of using an online/web-based feed reader as opposed to a specific client. Offline reading is probably the only consistent advantage, so I think NetNewsWire should spend time on this.
Newsgator mobile (with the iPhone browser) and NetNewsWire for the iPhone, have almost the same interface and responsiveness. Hopefully they will improve the client a bit because I LOVE reading the news offline. Overall rating is positive, but of course you need to be a newsgator user. I look forward to see improvements to the client, because it’s definitely worth!
Final note: I have no way to really measure this, but it seems like running the client eats up a lot of battery. I have no grounds to base this except for a “feeling”.