Last week, I looked at several WAP based RSS Readers. I have a couple of significant updates.
First, Feedalot has fixed the problem where html entities were parsed incorrectly causing garbage characters in feed items. As a result, I'm now using Feedalot rather than Winksite as my primary mobile feed reader. I still think that Winksite has a cleaner, more intuitive and generally faster user interface than Feedalot - but the fact that Feedalot shows me whether a feed has unread items won me over. When I use Winksite, I have to open each feed to see if it has been updated or not which wastes time and bandwidth and generally annoys me.
Second, and I'm very excited about this, Russell Buckley has added the Wap Review Blog to the feeds included with his free Mobile RSS reader. Russell is a mobile industry veteran and very knowledgeable writer on mobile technology, marketing and the social implications of mobile devices. If you are interested in any area of the mobile revolution, you should take a look at Russell's MobHappy blog. The MobHappy Reader is a free version of FreeNews, a well regarded commercial Java ME mobile RSS reader. The main difference between the MobHappy Reader and FreeNews is that with the MobHappy Reader you can only read the feeds it comes preconfigured with. But what a great selection of feeds it is. Russell Buckley, SmartMobs, Om Malik, Darla Mack and Russell Beattie, just to name a few. I'm honored that Wap Review is included in this select group.
Instructions and links for downloading the MobHappy reader can be found
here. The reader works with the majority of Java enabled phones. You may want to check out the Settings | Download page from the reader menu to optimize the articles per feed and bytes per article that are downloaded, particularly if you are on a slow or metered network.
For many users, Java ME apps like the MobHappy Reader are a good alternative to reading RSS feeds using a WAP based aggregator.
The advantages of a Java based reader are:
- You can download feeds in advance and read them later regardless of whether you have network connectivity or not. This is good for reading on a commuter train where cellular coverage maybe be interrupted while underground.
- Once downloaded, jumping between feeds and items is almost instantaneous as opposed to a web based reader which has to wait for the network each time context changes.
- The developer of a Java based reader has more control over the device UI than a WAP developer which can yield in a more polished and efficient user interface. I think the FreeNews/MobHappy developers have done a good job in exploiting this Java advantage.
On the other hand, the web approach has it's own merits:
- There is nothing to install. Users are more comfortable with browsing than downloading apps. Some networks, like Nextel, restrict users from installing apps except though the carrier's portal. Other providers, including Verizon and Alltel, do not support Java at all -favoring Qualcom's proprietary BREW solution. Memory constraints limit how many midlets a user can install. The web based reader, on the other hand, should work with all phones with a browser.
- Because the data about which feeds you have subscribed to and which articles you have read are stored on a web server, you should be able to seamlessly more from home computer to mobile, to office computer and back to mobile without losing track of what you are reading. For this to work you need a reader with usable web and WAP versions. Unfortunately I don't think there is one, yet. Neither of the best mobile readers, Feedalot and Winksite, have particularly good desktop versions. My choice for a desktop aggregator, Bloglines, has a mobile version but it seems to be targeted at smartphones with a QVGA screen or better and is not well suited for mainstream mobiles .
Really, the choice is yours. If you can, download the MobHappy Reader and give it a try. And if you like it and want to add more feeds, buy FreeNews.