BlackBerry News: RSS Reader for BlackBerry Phones

I’m a great fan of RSS – Really Simple Syndication. For those not in the know, this is a syndication technology that allows you to read all your favourite blogs in one intuitive application.

Ever since I upgraded my BlackBerry Bold 9700 smartphone to the BlackBerry OS 6, my original RSS reader, FreeRange, stopped working. I really enjoyed this app: it synced beautifully to my Google Reader feeds, and allowed me to read my favourite blogs on both my computer and on-the-go with my BlackBerry. However, I had to face reality: I could no longer use FreeRange, and so I sought after another app that would allow me to keep updated with the world around me.

Cue BlackBerry News Feeds. The app isn’t officially released worldwide, with an exclusive beta programme running only in the United States and Canada. I managed to snag a copy of the app for my phone through another website, seeing as I’m based in South Africa.

The Good

BlackBerry News Feeds has a great search tool that allows anyone to easily add new blogs to their reading list. This tool is intelligent, too, and will slowly learn what your reading tastes tend toward, building a recommendation list over time. It’s also easy to add blogs from a series of categories pre-set.

In fact, when you first download the app, there are already some pre-loaded blogs set in your list, including a number of feeds from global reporting agency Reuters, as well as Inside BlackBerry (the official RIM BlackBerry blog), and GigaOM (a leading San Francisco-based technology blog).

Reading is simple, and the app can be set to auto-update your feeds in a given time interval. It can also integrate with the native messaging app on BlackBerry (although I haven’t tried this as yet).

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The Not-So-Good

This app is still in its beta phase, so bugs are expected. The most obvious I’ve encountered already include some issues with scrolling in a post with images. This causes a “stickiness” that clearly shows this app was intended for the touch screen BlackBerries. The app is also a memory hog, and loading posts with lots of images can freeze the phone or cause the app to crash unexpectedly. I recommend clearing the app’s feeds cache from the Options menu.

Bottom Line

BlackBerry News Feeds is a great RSS reader for BlackBerry smartphones that lets you keep on the pulse of your world. Whilst there’s no support for Google Reader syncing, and there are some issues with user experience, I certainly look forward to seeing what Research in Motion can do with this app. Contrary to popular speculation, I don’t believe that RSS is dead; it’s a technology that can only get better with time.

BlackBerry News Feeds requires a BlackBerry ID. You can download it for your phone from this link (this bypasses the need to be in the US or Canada to access the app).