I read a bunch of different RSS feeds from websites all over the place, and for a few years now I have been using Google Reader because I can use it on any computer or device and then keep my read items in sync no matter where I am. The experience was improved after I got the iPhone and Google quickly made adjustments specifically for the WebKit based browser used by iPhone as well as other smartphones. However, I recently learned about an app for the iPhone called Byline, and being a feed junkie I thought I would try it out. Boy am I glad I did.
When you first open Byline you are presented with Folders, which is basically the menu you see in Google Reader on the left hand side of the screen under normal view. I had just finished reading all my items before I took the screen shot above. From here I generally go straight to New Items, as that is what I want to read.
In this view you get a listing of all the feeds you would see if you were going to the Google Reader site optimized for the iPhone. Byline fills in some extra data such as Source Webpage and time posted. You can tap to follow through to the detailed view for a particular post.
Oh yeah, the app supports landscape orientation throughout as well. Now that I’m actually viewing an item i have a few options. If I tap the > button on the top toolbar the actual webpage this item references will be pulled up in the built-in browser, looking like this:
That is very cool, and extremely convenient, not to mention that it works very quickly. When you are finished a quick tap of the < button at the top of the toolbar will take you immediately back to the previous screen. Nice. You can also navigate up and down through your list of unread items or add it to your starred items list, using the respective icons above.
Another superb feature of Byline is that it includes playing of YouTube clips directly in the application, rather than kicking you out and opening YouTube separately. This includes all the bells and whistles that Mobile Safari enjoys. For instance, if I open a detailed view of a particular item that has a YouTube clip that is not available to play on the iPhone, I will see the following:
A better look is like this:
However, if the clip is playable, you will be presented with a screenshot of the clip and the play icon without the international no symbol through it:
Tapping on the icon starts the clip in the standard YouTube interface, but the important part is that we actually don’t ever leave Byline. Very nice integration, and this is the first time I have watched a YouTube clip without actually being in the YouTube app. It is great to not have to jump between the two applications. This is the kind of innovation we need to see in more applications to circumvent the circumstances in which Apple will not allow background applications. This behavior is even better, since we don’t need to ever leave the main app we are using. Badass.
Once you’re done reading you can choose to mark all the feeds you just scanned through as read, and then if you hit the refresh button at the bottom left of the screen the feeds all slip away and anything new starts to be pulled into the app. This works very quickly and dynamically, so the page fills up with new items and the counter of New Items goes up one digit at a time, rapidly.
Byline is all about bringing the true iPhone experience to reading your Google Reader feeds, and syncs with your account seamlessly. An added bonus is that the number of unread items shows as a badge on the icon when you are not using the application. This does not dynamically update as of now, but it would be really nice if push notification system was used to update this app without having to manually sync it.