River of News for iPad is an RSS newsreader that feeds articles and blog posts from Google Reader. The app is clean, slick, easy to use, and extremely straightforward.
When you open River of News for the first time it will ask for your Google Reader username and password. As soon as you enter your information everything will start to load. Your Google Reader folders display on the left hand side of the screen (or as a drop down menu button in portrait mode). Each individual RSS feed is then listed by name with a number next to it.
The numbers in the app display the number of unread posts you have in your reader. If you want to read all of your Reader news at the same time you can press the “All” button. In the same vein, you can choose to read all the posts from a specific folder by clicking on that folder or just concentrate on one publication by clicking on the name of that specific feed.
Clicking will display your actual feed on the right 2/3 of the screen with a clean gray background that scrolls infinitely through the RSS feed. Each individual post is separated cleanly in a box with the ability to star posts in the upper right hand corner and a share button on the lower right hand corner. If you want the posts to fill the entire screen you just flip the iPad into portrait mode, and switching between feeds is as easy is flicking your finger sideways instead of downwards to scroll.
The share functionality in River of News stands out as an absolute leader. Not only does it integrate everything from email to Read It Later, Instapaper, Delicious, Facebook, Twitter, Pinboard, Tumblr and more, you can also copy or open posts in Safari. The app automatically displays your most recent choices so your most used services are front and center.
Idyllic Code also did an excellent job with the settings of this app. They’re simple and concise, but also versatile and important. You can choose to mark posts as read when you scroll through them, change the font size between small medium and large, change the order of posts, or mark feeds as read in bulk.
This intuitive design requires no instruction guide and works extremely well. I was impressed by how well River of News takes advantage of the iPad’s inherent ability to become a wonderful consumption device and felt myself finding excuses to tend to my RSS feeds even though I’d left them neglected for months.
Although this app is wonderful, I felt there were a few things to be desired. For starters, I wish there was some sort of caching functionality that allowed me to read at least some of my unread articles when I’m not actually connected to the internet. I also wish that I could edit my RSS feeds from within the River of News app. Instead I ended up jumping up and down between my iPad and my regular computer, refining my feed little by little.
Last but not least, I would have liked to have seen built in integration with at least a couple of the other main RSS readers. This would not only increase the app’s target audience, but also make life a bit easier for people who read nearly everything in an alternate service like netvibes, Pageflakes, newsgator, and a few others.
(As an aside: People who use other reader services can use this app. You just have to sign up for Google Reader and use the import function within Google to import your current RSS feeds from your other service into Google Reader. You can then continue using your other feed however you use it and use this app for Google Reader. The only function you’ll miss is having a synced reading experience that displays only unread posts wherever you are.)
All that said, this is one of the cleanest RSS news apps I’ve encountered on the iPad. Newsreaders are very difficult to get right, and River of News has clearly established themselves as one of the leaders in the space.
Bottom Line: River of News is one of the leading newsreaders for iPad. It only syncs with Google Reader, but offers great features and an amazingly clean and crisp user experience.