News Republic challenging established iOS news apps
News Republic is the new kid on the block, challenging Flipboard, Zite and other popular news readers/aggregators. The app claims to have an advanced algorithm with semantic and learning intelligence, reviewing millions of news items to create a news feed for each specific reader based on his or her interests in stories.
This free app scours hundreds of news sources (including TUAW) for stories that are relevant to you. When you set it up, you decide which broad categories of stories you want, like Science and Technology, U.S. News, Apple, and so on. When you are done, the app creates a front page with the categories visible. Tap on the categories and you'll see a long list of what should be relevant stories. Each story includes any audio and video attached to the originals, and you can choose to read the story in a browser instead of in News Republic. Unlike the new Google News & Weather app I recently reviewed, News Republic reformats every story into a pleasing format with consistent fonts and layout.
The app also has a configurable widget for iOS 8 users, which is a nice up-to-date touch that most news apps haven't yet offered.
You can sign up for an app account or choose not to. I skipped the sign up, and News Republic seemed to work fine. I've probably given up a feature or two, but generally I try not to sign up for app accounts if I can avoid it.
And now for something that I didn't like: the news categories just aren't granular enough. I selected politics, and the majority of the stories came from overseas. I would have preferred U.S. Politics only, but I didn't see any way to accomplish that. You can search for topics and the app will attempt to find stories so that you can create a new category from the results, but U.S. Politics simply didn't work. I'm sure there are other troublesome categories. The app supports notifications, which many people will like, but I'm on a notifications diet so I left them disabled.
Overall, I had a good experience with News Republic. It needs to allow more specificity about the types of news I want, and I didn't see any way to activate local or regional news without manually typing some keywords.
I'll keep an eye on this app and see how it progresses, but it certainly is worth a look. News Republic requires iOS 6 or later and works fine under iOS 8. It's universal, and offers a good experience on the iPhone or the iPad.
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