Review of Byline for the iPhoneApplication, iPhone, iPod, Review July 16th, 2008
Update: With the 1.0.1 update to Byline Phantomfish has added the ability to mark individual new items as read/undread by swiping across them in the list, they have added a share button, and a “Mark All as Read” function (really big deal to me).
I was really hoping that Google would release a Google Reader client that runs native on the iPhone but unfortunately that may not happen. But, Byline is here to fill that void.
Byline is a pretty simple reader but what makes it great is that it syncs to Google Reader and caches items locally to be read offline and when you get back to an area with a connection Byline will sync those changes back to Google Reader.
Byline will even download the full webpage linked to by the RSS items instead of just what is enclosed in the RSS feed, that means you can choose to have Byline download pages from your new items, starred items, and notes (more on that later) to be viewed offline (full web pages).
Now back to the notes feature. Notes allows you to use a bookmarklet in your browser to save a web page like a bookmark but leave a little note with it, that of course is saved on Google’s servers. Byline will look at those notes and treat them just like items in RSS feeds so you can basically save any web page you want to Byline to be viewed offline.
Byline will also append a badge on the icon in the homescreen with the number of unread items. Here is where my issues come in, by default Byline will only grab the 25 most recent items and only 25 items so if you (like me) have about 500-1,000 new items a day from RSS feeds the dock will only show 25 and (from what I can see) it is only possible to cache 25 new unread items on the phone. Here’s an example, I am about to get on an airplane but I’d like to read all my RSS feeds from my iPhone while on the plane, I open up Byline and wait for items to be downloaded. I put the phone in airplane mode and get on the plane, but when you open up Byline it will only show you the 25 most recent items when it synced last meaning those other 475-975 items are unreadable until I get internet access again.
I’m sure these problems will be fixed with upcoming updates to Byline but it is still pretty frustrating. The other issue I have is the price (which I’ve mentioned in my review of Enigmo) $9.99 is too much to ask for this application, it really should only cost between $2-5. I don’t know if this is just developers testing the waters to see how people react to applications but boy is it frustrating to not be able to test an application out without paying the full price, in other words if there was a demo version available for free charging $9.99 might not be such a terrible thing.
But, if you spend a lot of time reading RSS feeds and Google Reader is your feed reader of choice this is a great app for you, especially if you are using an iPod Touch or spend a lot of time without cell service.
More screenshots after the jump