As an aspiring journalist and writer you can rightly assume that the current situation in Libya, Syria and Yemen has me constantly checking my phone for updates. I’m also following top journalists who are in the thick of the action on Twitter.
I think news applications have started to get stale since their first incarnations on Android. Even Pulse isn’t exactly doing it for me anymore. Understandable I guess; I mean, the news doesn’t exactly excite the general population like other genres might. Yet it’s an important cornerstone in any country. Finding, sharing and critiquing as fast as possible is what 21st century journalism is all about.
I normally use several applications to get my news throughout the day (and night): Al Jazeera, BBC and Pulse, to name but a few. They all do a fine job at delivering it to me but when I discovered a different application that had so much more to offer they were quickly removed from my homescreen and relegated to the abyss that is the main menu, lost in a sea of other rejected applications I haven’t gotten around to purging yet.
News Republic really takes things to the next level. The minute I opened it up and was greeted by helpful, well-designed messages which gave me quick tour of the application I knew it was a keeper.
I always think it’s a nice touch on the developers’ part to include a helpful tips which activate upon first time usage of an application, regardless of how simple it is to use. It’s a nice welcome and shows they care. But maybe I’m just being sentimental.
Anyway: the app itself. Wow.
Right away they’ve checked the most important box a news application has to check: sources. They have loads of them including Reuters, AP, BNO, ITN, Tech Radar and many more. They tend not to take stories from individual media outlets such as newspapers and TV stations which on one hand is positive; If I wanted Fox News I’d watch Fox News, thank you very much. On the other hand it might not be such a great feature for those who love opinion pieces. Including a few reputable newspapers and sites such as the NYT, The Times and perhaps even Al Jazeera for a middle-Eastern twist mightn’t be such a bad idea.
The second thing that struck me about News Republic was a little ‘join the dots’ symbol in the top right-hand corner of the screen. It clearly denoted ‘related articles’ but the fact that they’ve executed it as a tag cloud — a very impressive tag cloud I might add — is noteworthy. It looks great and works stupendously well, perhaps even better than the ones you find on many blogs. I love this visual representation of related topics and think it should be done a lot more often.
Just using News Republic is a breeze too. Adding topics to the ‘my News’ section is as easy as pressing the small star at the top of each screen, and the excellent social networking integration makes sharing a story really easy. Instead of just having the standard options of Twitter, Facebook, etc., when you click Share a list of your installed ‘sharing’ apps appear which you can use. So for example if you have WordPress installed you can send it to you blog or if you want to take note of the story you can select Evernote.
What’s more, at the bottom of each category’s menu (as you can see above) there’s an upturned corner which can be opened to further investigate the topic on numerous sites such as Wikipedia, Google and Twitter. Did I mention that load times are fantastic? The ability to customise your news feed based on your location is pretty cool too.
I have but one main quibble with News Republic when it comes to usage, and it’s mainly due to the fact that I’ve become accustomed to applications released by TV stations. I really miss live video streams. The application does support pre-recorded reports (mainly from ITN) which are the next best thing I guess, but you can’t beat watching a fifteen minute news cycle live while on the bus in the morning.
Have you seen the screenshots? They look pretty good, right? Well multiply your level of approval by ten and you’re getting close. I have to say, News Republic has one of the best, if not the best, designs of any news reader application I’ve come across.
Designing a news application and making it look good is hard. You’ve got to display a lot of information and pictures as well as incorporate a tonne of functions, buttons and menus. Gelling that together ain’t easy. And yet, they’ve done a spectacular job. The color scheme is fantastic. Text and pictures are well proportioned. The menus look great and overall, it’s very easy on the eye. What more can I say? Oh yeah. The animations.
Using some news outlets’ applications can be like browsing their mobile sites. And that sucks. News Republic uses pleasant animations for screen changes and when features load. For example, when a new article loads on the list it gently fades in, along with its corresponding image. This is as opposed to a clunky introduction about as subtle as a hand grenade (I’m looking at you, Al Jazeera for Android). Plus, across the top of the homescreen there’s a rotating news feed that shows currently popular stories. Very nice.
Normally when reviewing applications this is where I like to point out what developers could have done a little differently or might want to consider for the next update, but I find I’m at a loss with News Republic. Aside from the lack of live video support I genuinely can’t fault it in any noteworthy way.
If you like reading good quality journalism about things that matter, when they matter, then download News Republic for all the reasons I’ve listed above. I honestly can’t see any real reason why you wouldn’t be impressed by it and make it your number one news application.
News Republic is a news app for Android. It incorporates several different news agencies into the one application. Over 1,500 news stories per day are synced with the application along with video reports and images. It's ad supported and completely free to download.9