Have you ever wanted to read a long-form article while at work, but knew that your boss wouldn’t be keen on the idea when there were spreadsheets that needed your attention? The free Umano Android app lets you stick it to your superior by letting you listen to articles from The Atlantic, Businessweek, The New York Times, NPR, Salon, Vice, and other outlets—yes, listen. Umano hosts audio versions of news and opinion pieces read by professional voice actors. The result is an informative and entertaining service that lets users dive into written content in a fresh (and work-friendly) way.
Text Meets Audio
You can get started with Umano without creating an account, or by logging in with your Facebook or Google+ credentials. The latter option, of course, lets you share audio articles to those social networks, but there’s a secondary benefit: you can create playlists. More on that in a second.
Before you start listening, you select topics of interests from the Inspirational, World & Politics, Scientific, Entrepreneurial, Technology, Lifestyle, Facts & History, Entertainment, and Business categories. You’re then taken to the attractive Umano home screen where your personalized feed lives. Set up, as you can see, is incredibly simple.
But there’s a tradeoff that comes with that simplicity—you can’t fine tune your feed. The general categories that you pick are in full control of the presented content, so there’s no way to specifically filter out TechCrunch or only read articles from Ziff Davis’ own Geek. It’s a lot like Swell Radio in that regard.
North of the feed is a rotating banner that displays articles related to hot topics such as Elon Musk’s proposed Hyperloop and the recently released Jobs biopic. Umano also lets you browse by category or search for a particular term.
The Umano Listening Experience
Tapping a story takes you to a dedicated story screen where you can check out sharing options, social activity (the number of likes and listens), categories, comments, and the name and bio of the voice over artists. You can also double the playback speed should you want to blow through an article, rewind the stream in 15 second intervals to return to a particular section, visit the original text-based article, and add articles to playlists. Articles added to playlists can be downloaded for offline playback.
The voice artists’ clear, crisp contributions shouldn’t be overlooked, as their presence greatly enhances the written word. Medium’s “Why Beer Is the New Wine, And Wine the New Fur Coat,” as read by Noah Michael Levine, is a prime example of how voice adds to text. Mr. Levin’s reading adds weight and a touch of humor to the already interesting story. When he refers to hedge fund darlings who purchase vineyards as a mark of success as “douchebags” he adds just enough disgust to the word to make one literally laugh out loud.
Umano for Android takes traditional news and opinion articles and spices it up with engaging vocal performances—it’s a delightful blend. It’s also a fine way for smartphone users to stay on top of the news without squinting at the relatively small screens. For its convenience and entertainment value, Umano for Android is a no-brainer Editors’ Choice pick.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc