As a blogger and a news writer, I’m always on the look out for fresh and exciting news apps. Having stumbled upon Summly only a few days ago, I’m completely in love, and this is perhaps the freshest, most useful news app I have ever had the pleasure of using… let me tell you why.
Summly was originally Trimit, an app designed to condense text content into 1000, 500 or 140-word summaries. The app was so successful that it attracted major investment, and so, using the money, and a whole host of feedback, its 15 year old creator Nick D’Aloisio redesigned the app from the ground up to create Summly.
With the aim of optimizing news for the mobile display, Summly uses an algorithm, featuring artificial intelligence, to analyze and summarize a piece of news. With that in mind, I will now briefly erm… summarize the Summly experience.
The Summly homepage, awesome.
The immediate stand out feature of Summly is its crisp, clean interface. The homepage (above) features a different wallpaper each day, and on it there is always 2 key pieces of information. The first is the number of unread ‘Summlys’ you have to explore. (As explained on the page, a ‘Summly’ is a summarised version of a website or article) The second bit of information is a trending article, as far as I’m aware, this is usually relevant to the news that you like to view. For example, I selected “Football”, as one of my custom categories (A feature I’ll explain later), and a few moments later the trending article was a football-related article.
So there you have it, a minimalist homepage with a feature article, so far, so good. I really like not being bombarded with information when I enter the article, and I really enjoy having the most popular news of the day ready to read straight away.
Having viewed the homepage, you’re taken to the main page of the app. This page (shown above) is a list of categories that you have chosen to receive updates about. It contains the usual selection, sports, business, technology, science and more, and you can arrange the categories in any order by simply dragging the category icons to your desired location. Each tile has one feature article, and then a number stating how many other articles are featured. As I mentioned earlier, you can add your own categories by simply typing a keyword, one of my choices was football, and the image above shows Apple as another choice. The Summly algorithm finds and summarizes the most relevant news articles and brings them right to your fingertips, the more specific your keyword, the more specific the articles your receive, simple and effective.
Once you’ve selected a category you’re taken to a page as seen above. This page contains a summary of the first article that the Summly algorithm has found, and it always fits on the page you can see in front of you. In short, you can read a summary of the entire news article without lifting a finger. If you want to move on to the next article, you simply swipe to the left or the right. To return to the coverpage, swipe upwards. If you want to read a more detailed summary of the article, you can double tap the screen, and if you want to read the full article from the original source, you can swipe downwards. I think that the options of a brief summary, a more detailed summary and then the full article are perfectly balanced. By reading the initial summary, I can decide whether or not I want to read the article or not without wasting my time. What you’re getting with Summly is a fantastic way to sift through news efficiently and quickly. More importantly, the controls and input required to do this are fantastically fluid and intuitive, and I really can’t fault them. That being said, it does take a little while to pick it up, and in the beginning, you might find yourself navigating to a full article, when you actually wanted to return to the category page. It does however come with a tutorial, and after a day of use, you’ll be reading news like a pro.
If you find an article that you’d like to share, you can simply hold down your finger anywhere in the screen, and the apps sharing options appear, as shown below. You can share content via Facebook, Twitter and Email, and the fourth option allows you to save an article, further informing the app of the kind of content you enjoy reading.
From my experiences so far, I can safely say that Summly is the best news app I’ve ever used. That being said, it does have one or two weaknesses. As mentioned, it does take some time to get comfortable with all the different gestures.. Aside from that, it can be a little frustrating not having the opportunity to search for news. Whilst there is a substantial range of categories and the option to add your own categories, when I’m using the app I can’t help but think there are some stories of interest that might be slipping under the radar. Now, the controls aren’t really a big issue at all. On the contrary, the controls, once mastered, are one of this apps biggest strengths, but the lack of a proper search engine does bug me ever so slightly. Whilst the majority of Summly’s App Store reviews are excellent, there are some reports of bugs, which is to be expected from any app, don’t fret too much, but if you do find yourself having problems, expect them to be dealt with sooner rather than later.
All in all, Summly is a brilliant app. It has a fantastic user interface and intuitive controls. Furthermore, the algorithm based news-finding is a really fresh and exciting system, and I can’t wait to see what opportunities it might bring in the future. In the meantime, Summly is definitely worth some of your time, better still, it’s free, so what do you have to lose?
Summly is compatible with the iPhone 3GS onwards, the iPod touch 3rd gen onwards, and the iPad, but it does require iOS 5.0 or later. As you may have noticed from the photos in the article, it has also been optimised for the iPhone 5.
If you have any questions about the app or my experiences with it, then please hit me up on Twitter @TiP_Stephen. Or, if you’d like to try Summly for yourself, you can download it here (UK) or here (US)