NewsAlert is what I would call a “Programmable Universal RSS Feed”. It uses keywords which you define to aggregate news stories of interest to you from around the web. The interface is simple but clean, and consequently relatively quick and easy to set up for your own purposes.
When NewsAlert first launches it takes a few seconds to initialise, and on first run presents you with a blank area topped by a title bar and tailed with a big settings button. A plus in the top right corner on the title bar allows you to add a “New Keyword”. Keywords are your reference for news stories you are interested in.
When you are adding a keyword you are presented with a text area which you can type directly into and buttons to optionally source keywords from your contacts, artists (whose music you have on your device) or from your location information. Once you have added a keyword from your chosen source it is given it’s own bar on the front page of the app. When news stories related to that are sourced by the app this is indicated on the right of each bar as a recognisable iPhone update indicator with a number for the amount of articles sourced within it.
NewsAlert uses Push Notifications so you can forget about it, let it get on with it’s job, and it will alert you when it has updates. You can also set limits on the times it can alert you, which is a nice feature. Some of us do like to sleep occasionally without being beeped at!
Touching a keyword bar will take you into a list of news articles related to that keyword which when themselves tapped take you directly to the news sources web page. Articles are kept in chronological order until you delete them. Ones you have not read are marked clearly as unread. You can delete and “mark as read” multiple stories at one which is convenient. Sources are varied and reputable including such sites as “The Guardian” and so on.
When reading a news story you have the option from a send icon on the title bar to Tweet it, email it, blacklist the source, mark it as read etc. You can also read news articles in landscape or portrait. However, when you return to the main screen the app forces you back into portrait mode again.
It’s really as simple as that.
In the settings area of the app (accessed using that settings button I mentioned on the app’s main view) there are various options where you can enable landscape viewing of articles, enable shake to clear, alter your notification settings and blacklist any sources you find you don’t like.
One “feature” I didn’t really like is that if you want to have more keywords than the 10 the app is initially limited to there is also an option to buy more keywords from within the app. I am not sure I’d necessarily use more than 10 keywords from my iPod or iPhone but I’d like to think that if I am buying an app it’s fully featured and not feature limited.
At $0.99, even with the 10 keyword limit, the app is good value and does what it says neatly and efficiently. It is on sale now at this reduced price “for a limited time”. At it’s normal price of $2.99 I would expect the 10 keyword limit to be removed.
One other small niggle is that keywords of less than 3 letters are not allowed. This may sound silly, and there are obviously reasons why a limit like this is imposed (network traffic). But I am a Formula 1 fan and it’s commonly referred to as “F1” in news sources. It was one of the first keywords I tried! Luckily “Formula 1” works just fine too. But it would be nice to be able to use some 2 letter acronyms in common usage as keywords.
- Pleasant, easy to understand interface.
- Push notifications with a definable time range for alerts.
- Ability to Tweet news stories.
- Ability to delete and “mark as read” multiple stories at once.
The Not So Good
- 10 Keyword limit, and extra charge for more keywords.
- App does not allow you to use it in Landscape mode throughout it’s workflow.
- Keywords of less than 3 characters not allowed.
Reviewed By: Stephen Northcott
Price: $0.99 (iTunes Store Preview)
Updated Mar 01, 2010
Reviewed Version: 1.3
Size: 0.3 MB
Seller: Dan Hassin
© 2010 Dan Hassin
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone and iPod touch. Requires iPhone OS 3.1 or later.