The shakeup that’s happened in the world of RSS feed readers since the demise of Google Reader has led a lot of people to reconsider where and how do they really want to read. Those who adopted RSS reading strategies in the early days might stick to their tradition of trolling feeds on a computer or laptop, but with RSS mobile apps galore, including the Digg iPad app (free), there’s no need to feel restricted to full-sized screens. Digg’s iPad app has a main page that’s similar to the Digg site, wherein a popular vote helps surface interesting news stories and other Web content, but it now also includes the brand-new and highly customizable RSS feed reader Digg Reader (technically in beta).
While technically still in beta, Digg Reader shows a lot of early promise, and it looks fantastic on the iPad. The reader itself has a few limitations—you have to have a Google account, for example, and it doesn’t support OPML uploads—but it’s off to a decent start and is one of the better options for simple RSS feed aggregation on an iPad.
How to Get Digg Reader on iPad
When you install the free Digg app from iTunes and launch it, tap the three horizontal lines in the upper left corner to open Digg Reader. You’ll have to sign into a Google account to use Digg Reader. The app will request access to information from your Google account—a show-stopping privacy concern for some people—and you have to grant it access to use the RSS feed reader.
Digg then pulls in your Google Reader feeds and imports them pretty well, preserving folder organization in the process.
In testing the Digg app and the included Digg Reader, Google Alerts did not actually work, appearing as empty feeds, even when I could see in other RSS services and my Google Alerts via email that the feed was active and updating.
Digg App Features and Design
The main part of the Digg iPad app doesn’t contain much to write home about. In fact, it’s very much downplayed the moment you start a Digg Reader account. In short, there’s a home screen where popular Digg news stories display in a scrollable view. Stories appear with a headline and image, and a count showing how many “Diggs” (essentially “likes”) a story received. You can open the story to read it in full dispaly, or use a row of icons at the top to bookmark the story to read later, or share it via email, Facebook, Twitter, and so forth.
Digg Reader on the iPad app looks like most other RSS feed readers in the browser, except with more moving parts, like a left rail that hides when you click to read your feeds. That left rail contains a list of your feeds and folders, as expected, with a few essential tools and features at the top, including an icon to let you access “saved” stories.
Click a feed or folder from the left panel, and it opens the list of items in that feed in the main window, hiding the RSS feed reading panel in the process. The display looks great, but you can’t toggle between expanded versus minimal previews. Each entry has a headline in bold type with the name of the publication or blog below it, an image when available, and a time stamp showing how long ago the item appeared in your feed (e.g., “4h” indicates four hours ago). Often you’ll see one to two lines of preview text from the post if it fits; when images are included, that preview text generally doesn’t fit. Tap a post once, and it opens for further reading, which sometimes contains the complete text and other times only another preview. Tap again and you can open the full post in Digg’s included browser.
Even though the Digg iPad app shows you content other than what’s in your feeds via the Digg main page, it’s quite different from aggregator apps that aim for magazine styling, such as Flipboard.
Flipboard is hands-down the most well designed iPad app I’ve ever used, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. And it certainly isn’t a true-to-form RSS reader, instead suggesting visually compelling content from online magazines, as well your own social media accounts. Digg Reader, on the other hand, caters more to those who want to see a list of headlines, maybe with a thumbnail image thrown in, but kept off to the side. Digg does have suggestions for new content that you might like to add to your reader, but in sticks to a more bare-bones display.
Some RSS fans will be thrilled to hear that Digg Reader also integrates with Pocket, Readability, and Instapaper, all services that make it easier to read long-form content in particular when offline. You can manage your connections to these services right from within the settings of the Digg app. It’s totally appropriate, as those services are really designed to improve reading experiences on small devices, such as the iPhone.
Settings and More
When I explored Digg Reader’s settings from the website digg.com/reader, I found a few instances of switches set to “public” rather than “private” by default, which pleases none too much. There are two private/public switches for URLs that contain a feed of all the items from your account that you either save or “Digg.” Ah ha. So, if you set these URLs to public, you can then let other RSS feed users get a stream of all the content you either Digg or save an item. That’s kind of neat, but I wish there had been some explanation so I could determine whether and how I might use those capabilities—or whether I’d prefer to toggle them to private. iPad users should be aware of these settings, too.
Other neat options in the settings didn’t all seem to work just yet (remember, Digg Reader is technically in beta), but definitely piqued my interest. One lets you adjust the size of the text display (something that I presumed would be functional even during beta), and another section called “Experiments” that has an entry for “car mode.” This feature wasn’t functional at the time of my testing but purports to play any unplayed podcasts. I’m super curious, as I do a lot more audio “reading” of news and articles than visual reading.
Digg is Digg Reader
Let’s not beat around the bush. The Digg iPad app is the Digg Reader app, too. The RSS feed reading component is so integral that there’s little reason to use it unless you sign into Digg Reader. If you’re not one to give away access to your Google account so freely, this is not the app for you. Although it’s in beta with some bugs expected for the time being, it’s off to an interesting start. At present, Digg Reader is completely free, but the company has announced plans to roll out premium features for paying subscribers in the near future.
If you are not willing to use an RSS feed reading service that demands a connection to Google, pick G2Reader , one of our Editors’ Choices—the catch being it does not have a standalone iPad app (though you can access it from a mobile Web browser).
Our other Editors’ Choice is Feedly, which also requires a Google account, and seems very similar to Digg Reader in many ways but has had more time to become truly stabile and reliable. And Feedly does have its own iPad app, too. I like Digg’s iPad app for far, despite having to give it access to Google, and am curious to see how it grows in the coming months, when Digg Reader rolls out its premium services. Stay tuned.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc