Mobile RSS Readers Update

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.

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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.
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Instructions and links for downloading the MobHappy reader can be found
. 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.

3 thoughts on “Mobile RSS Readers Update

  1. Pingback: SmallDoses » Blog Archive » BlogLines - the best mobile web app

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful reply, David. I really do appreciate what you are doing with Winksite. I probably should have been clearer that my review was focusing on personal RSS readers. It really didn't occur to me that Winksite's sharing model made tracking read items at the per user level particularly difficult.

    The fact that Syndicated Feeds can be and are by default public is great and is obviously the reason why there are "Mobilized by Winksite" buttons on so many blogs including Wap Review. I urge all my readers to take a look at Winksite, not just as an RSS reader but as a means of sharing content on the mobile web.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to review our service. There are reasons why we have not placed a high priority on features such as showing whether a feed has unread items.

    Each mobile site you create at WINKsite includes a "Syndicated Feeds" channel. While it's true that this channel can be used as an individual's mobile feed reader we think this use of our feed service as secondary to it's primary purpose. Let me explain...

    You see, we originally designed the "Syndicated Feeds" channel from the perspective of using RSS as a simple, hassle-free way to publish existing web-based content to a mobile community. Unlike other mobile feed readers, the feeds you subscribe to at WINKsite can be shared with the visitors to your mobile site as a content channel. (i.e. combinations of news, event, weather and traffic feeds can be combined to support the development of city guides, aggregated news services and directories.)

    It's our belief that this single difference changes the potential of how feed syndication can be utilized in a mobile environment. For example, RSS syndication is currently being used on various WINKsite's to bring content to the mobile phones of people who have limited access to a desktop computer - combined with mobile forums, chat, polls etc.- the technology shortchanged are able to engage in feature rich mobile communities. (The MobHappy guys said it well - "The Mobile is the PC of the Developing World")

    ...the conversations we want to have. The conversations start from the content because we want to communicate, not consume." - Charlie Schick, Nokia

    This couldn't be more true or more important to remember.

    For tens of millions worldwide their mobile phone is their one and only daily pipeline onto the Internet, to the knowledge it contains, and to each other.

    It is more than just creating and consuming content - it is about the individuals it engages, the people it connects, the dialogue that develops, the community that forms and the collective action that can result.

    Over time we have also observed first hand just how fragmented and confusing the mobile web is for mainsream users. The need for personalized "mobile portals" is increasing as the carrier walled gardens come tumbling down and terabytes of branded and user-generated content web content are now freely available. The ability to help people glue together - friends, feeds and favorites (and the awareness of what they have read or haven't read) are taking an equal priority here at WINKsite as we further refine our service.

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