Version Reviewed: 1.0
iPhone Integration Rating:
User Interface Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
Spout is certainly one of the most unique ways to read updates I’ve seen. It gathers your updates from various “news” sources—Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reader—and floods your screen with one item at a time. Each new update spirals on in an animated, word-by-word display. It’s meant to be “beautiful,” and at first, it is; sitting back and watching the updates unfurl is almost mesmerizing. Unfortunately, Spout is incredibly impractical for in-depth reading or browsing of your news feeds, and after a few moments the animation gave me a headache. I’m filing this one under “pretty solutions to a problem that I don’t have.”
Let’s step back a moment. When you first start Spout, you’ll have to input your login information for the news source(s) you want Spout to have access to. It’s a simple, seamless process. After that, Spout creates a carousel of sorts of updates. By default, it scrolls through from newest to oldest, and when new updates come they’re inserted into the carousel. Spout draws the text of each update out in a lovely, dynamic word-by-word animation that looks and feels like some sort of commercial. It’s hard to describe, so I recommend watching the video. While watching this stream of updates, you can also pause and open an item with an in-app browser, or go to the settings and tweak things like theme, the order in which updates are displayed, and text speed.
Again, I have to reiterate: the video is the clearest explanation for what Spout looks like.
The result is fluid and lovely, and yet…I found myself disliking Spout. Part of it is the app’s focus on “passive social reading experiences”—and doesn’t that catchphrase sound bizarre? For me, reading tweets or Facebook status updates shouldn’t be passive; what’s the point if you can’t comment or reply at will? Additionally, I found the constant scrolling to be annoying. Either the text would appear too slowly, making me impatient, or it would suddenly jump or rotate, which quickly resulted in a headache. Besides, Spout wrenches the control from your hands; you’re forced to become a captive to your screen and just absorb updates as they flow by. (While you can skip back to former posts, it’s a slow process that doesn’t always work.)
Another, separate complaint I have is Spout’s handling of non-text media. You can’t zoom in on images, and videos don’t seem to load, which is rather disappointing.
Spout sounds like a nice idea, and I have to say, it looks gorgeous. But functionally speaking, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to read their updates this way, as the purely passive nature of Spout is frustrating at best, and headache-inducing at worst. Spout gets points for its slick looks, but I won’t be keeping it around.