Searching for a Reader: NewsBlur edition

Back on Tuesday, I indicated that I would be reviewing the RSS service NewsBlur for the next few days.

I thought it was going to be far less time, and a very short review. The first thing I saw when registering was this:

newsblur

Luckily enough, this doesn’t – or, at least, didn’t – actually prevent the creation of a free account. It might by now, however, so a try-before-you-buy option for NewsBlur might no longer exist.

It did for me, though. So I can continue with the review …

Setup

The basic setup is easy — importing your Google Reader settings and installing the Android app are both simple.

NewsBlur has built-in facility to easily share blog posts you enjoy with other users, and a learning mechanism which allows it to filter the material you enjoy to the top of the list. It’s hard to say if the latter is working — free accounts are limited, and I’ve not had much time to “train” the reader.

Look and feel

Using the service is where it starts to go downhill.

The “framed” look of the main site seems dated, and it’s a pain in the ass to read a site on the main website. This is simply because the “down” arrow key moves the reader to the next article. When I’m not using a mouse — which is pretty often when I’m just sat there reading things — it becomes horrendously annoying.

The mobile app doesn’t allow the saving of stories for later, or to adjust the NewsBlur‘s learning, though it does allow export to Evernote, for items I want to view later.

Offline support is better than Feedly — the NewsBlur app seems to download text (but not photos) for a handful of blog posts when it connects to the internet, allowing some reading to be done offline. It’s not enough, however, and the lack of photos is troublesome, given the number of photography blogs I follow.

But the main problem is this:

Screenshot_2013-03-19-17-33-30

The app crashes, regularly.

And I don’t have a bizarre setup — a Samsung Galaxy S3 running CyanogenMod 10 should arguably be the best supported Android fork out there: the most popular hardware with what is essentially a stripped down to vanilla open source Android OS.

The bottom line

Unlike most of the options, NewsBlur operates on a paid subscription model; users are expected to pay for access to the service.

With money changing hands, however, a certain level of quality is expected. The browsing experience in NewsBlur, however, is worse than any of the other options tried so far. Using it would mean, literally, spending more to get less.

This is unacceptable.

Based on this, the reigning champion of the solutions tried so far is Feedly. Our criticisms still stand, and we fully expect to find a better option.

But NewsBlur ain’t it.

2 thoughts on “Searching for a Reader: NewsBlur edition

  1. You should probably try again. The system has had some significant shoring-up to deal with the expected influx after the GR announcement, and the apps have had some significant iterative improvements. Plus there’s other good news – NewsRob is in Beta with Newsblur support, which will make it an awesome offline android experience.

    1. Oh … I like NewsRob. There might be some competition to be had here, between Newsblur and Feedly.

      Looks like I need to do another follow-up on this later this summer, after everybody works out their kinks.

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