The latest update to the Digg iPhone app includes one huge new feature: Digg Reader. Digg Reader is the brand-new RSS feed reader from Digg that’s still technically in beta, but shows a lot of early promise. 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 looks great on the iPhone.
How to Get Digg Reader on iPhone
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. Every time I launched the app, I had to sign into Google anew, which makes me worry about whether I will still be able to use Digg Reader after July 1 when Google Reader goes the way of the dodo.
In testing the Digg iPhone app and the included Digg Reader, Google Alerts did not actually work, appearing as empty feeds, even when I could see in Google Reader that my alerts were active. If you’re in need of keeping your Google Alerts active, you can set them in Google to alert you via email after Google Reader closes. Or you can try Editors’ Choice G2Reader, one of the only RSS feed readers I’ve tested that continued to update my Google Alerts, though more slowly than Google did.
Digg App Features
The main part of the Digg iPhone 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, or swipe right to left across the story to access other functions, such as bookmarking it to read later, or sharing it via email, Facebook, Twitter, and so forth.
Left-to-right swipes, on the other hand, return you to Digg Reader, proving just how integral this feature is to the Digg now.
Design of Digg Reader
Digg Reader in the Digg iPhone app looks like most other RSS feed readers. You’ll see a list of your feeds and folders in a column, with a few essential tools and features, such as “saved” stories, at the top.
Click a feed or folder from this 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.
Digg Reader definitely has a very functional look on the iPhone, and I think that’s for the best due to the overwhelming amount of information you’re probably subjecting yourself to through the feature. Simpler is definitely better here.
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 iPhone 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 me 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. iPhone 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 iPhone appis the Digg Reader app for iPhone. The RSS feed reading component is so integral to the app 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 fully free, but the company has announced plans to rollout 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 other 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. That head-to-head comparison could change in the coming months, though, when Digg Reader rolls out its premium services. Stay tuned.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc