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SPUN: City News Review

Posted by Rob Rich on December 24th, 2012
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Developer: Broadcastr, Inc
Price: FREE
Version: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

iPhone Integration Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar


Print media is having a fairly rough time of it these days. Newspapers are suffering, magazines are shutting down left and right, all because of digital content. It’s a shame, then, to think about how apps like SPUN: City News could end up being the final nail in the coffin. Although it’s good news (no pun intended) for the app I guess.

SPUN acts as the area’s local newspaper tucked neatly on a mobile device. It uses location services to determine the user’s city, then fills their screen with recent news items. Of course there’s a bit more to it than that. Articles are divided up into several categories including Top Stories, Arts & Entertainment, Food & Drink, and Lifestyle. Much like a physical newspaper, really. Each page is actually one side of a cube, and users can swipe left and right between them as needed. They can also swipe down to scroll through older stories to see what they’ve missed. Users can mark their favorites and leave comments as well.

Having a bunch of current local stories on hand is great in itself, but SPUN offers a bit more than that. In addition to all the information, each story is flagged with a location. Any favorites a user marks can also be set to sound off an alert if they come within a certain distance, so if someone spots an interesting item about a new restaurant they can check the handy map that pops up above the story for directions and even get a heads-up once they get close.

It’s strange though, for all of SPUN’s intuitiveness it seems to be missing a couple of obvious features. The most immediately noticeable is the inability to simply tap the top of the screen to immediately scroll back up to the top of the list. Virtually every other interactive bit of iOS media does this, so why not here? And while I’m on the subject, where’s that “pull down to refresh” feature I’ve gotten so used to? The absence of these two interface options aren’t deal breakers, but they’re certainly a glaring omission. And, of course, there are currently only four categories to flip between. No sports, no movie listings, no political section, etc.

SPUN: City News is a fairly ambitious app, and it does what it’s meant to rather well, but it’s not quite up to snuff when compared to its printed counterparts. With a few more categories and some basic interface options it could be quite the contender, though.

Favorite Four: News Apps

Posted by Lisa Caplan on July 13th, 2011

One of the great things about iOS devices is that they bring both traditional and newer online news outlets to users in almost as many formats and GUIs as there are news sources. And, like the best digital sources, the best apps are free. From world news to national politics to sports and entertainment and anything in between, there are likely a dozen apps for that. Picking only four isn't easy, but while our home page has two folders full of news apps, there are really only a few we use daily. So this week we are going to look at our favorite four news apps for iPad and iPhone.


Pulse earns its spot here because it serves up customized news from myriad sources, in a clean, user-friendly app. Users can pick from a vast selection of preset news feeds on topics like world news and politics, but also sports, tech, entertainment and even fashion from the biggest websites around. They just added summer sources including cooking and crafts, too. Pulse allows allows users to add their Twitter, Facebook and other social network feeds and it functions as a Google Reader. Headlines and photos appear in rows, and a clean browser offering text or web views sits to the right. Users can easily scroll through up to five pages of headlines and dig into only those stories that are of interest. This is an all-in-one news app, and a must have for news nuts.

Zite Personalized Magazine:

Zite is the only entry this week that is iPad-only, but it serves up the news in such a fresh and comfortable fashion it belongs on any news app list. The app does what it claims to: it creates a personalized magazine divided into clean, easy-to-navigate sections that make getting today's headlines feel more, well, personal. The GUI is gorgeous, and this app too will pull your Twitter feed and Google Reader news, while offering a large number of preset news topics. News hounds can pick as many as they like across a comparable array of topics as Pulse.

What makes Zite a standout, however, aside from its glossy magazine feel, is that it is truly customizable and it gets to know individual user preferences while introducing a seemingly endless number of new web sources - it's like a news discovery app as well as a customizable news aggregator. Using what they call a "smart auto-suggest tool," readers can "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" an article, opt for more from the same source, and can even pick which of the sub-topics discussed within an article they would like to see more of in the future. Within a week of use, Zite creates not just a good looking, but a wholly relevant magazine, one that's updated several times a day, not a month.


If simplicity and news from a single reputable source that uses iOS to maximum advantage is the preferred means of getting a news fix, Reuters - one of the most reliable syndicated new sources around - has the go-to brand name app. Reuters News Pro covers a broad cross-section of interests including an excellent market watch section, as well as award-winning photojournalism with the ability to customize the app to a user's location. Reuters does not just serve up text news - the app has video coverage of top stories as well. Reuters News Pro also includes their popular "Oddly Enough" weird-news feature, and everything can be read on or offline with no user setup required.

Breaking News !:

No list would be complete without a news app the uses push notifications. We want our news in-depth, but when something major happens, we like being notified instantly. Several news apps offer this feature, but none of the biggest names do particularly good jobs with the GUI, and most are single-source apps. Breaking News delivers headlines from CNN, BBC, WSJ, and MSNBC in realtime to your iPhone. It would benefit from the AP or Reuters feed, but it's a solid choice for both coverage and push-notification reliability.