One of the new features that RIM is really pushing in BlackBerry 6 is the built in RSS feed reader and the new Social Feeds interface. They are both combined into one app called Social Feeds and fit well together. I will say that the Social Feeds app is awesome for people who want to stay on top of ALL of their social networks in one place by pulling data from IM clients, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, & more.
On the other hand the RSS reader is nice but its beauty is only skin deep. It is useful for the most basic of RSS uses which will suffice for casual BlackBerry users. On the other hand it lacks the polish and sophistication that I wish for. Still it is a handy tool for checking up on the latest news and will more that suffice for casual users.
The BlackBerry 6 RSS Reader:
The new RSS reader is a nice addition for RIM and really seems to have no connection to their purchase of Viigo. Long time Viigo users will be saddened to hear that Viigo barely works AT ALL in BlackBerry 6. This is because of the new WebKit browser which either renders articles terribly or just gives up and shows a white screen. Not sure what the story is with that but I have been asking around for a BlackBerry 6 build but nobody seems to have one. So far I am surviving with BerryReader but the latency and lack of caching is killing me.
Now back to the new native RSS Reader. This new reader comes preloaded with 3 horribly summarized feeds courtesy of Reuters. I am not sure why RIM decided to choose summarized feeds as a way to highlight the application… You can easily add your own by hitting the menu button and selecting “New Feed.” RIM made adding a new feed dead simple. You just enter in a search term or part of a url and it will discover the RSS feed. I tried this on a couple of sites and it worked like a charm. I tried adding up to 20 feeds and it still worked nicely and didn’t choke. RIM does not give you the ability to put feeds in folders so the app gets a bit ungainly if you add to many. One nice addition that RIM added is the ability to filter the view based on your RSS feed of choice. You can then swipe left and right to switch between feeds.
The built in RSS app does a pretty decent job of rendering feeds. It sometimes has a problem with images that are too large but you can work them out. I have not really found any keyboard shortcuts in the app so you cannot hit P for Previous or N for Next or B for Bottom etc. Hopefully RIM will add those soon. The only real issue I had was that the Social Feeds app seems to not play nice with the BerryReview RSS feed by only showing the description of every feed item instead of the full content. I fixed that by creating a temporary RSS feed without without a description but hopefully I can find a fix soon. I am not sure why RIM made it default to a summary feed…
Above you can see the options of the Social Feeds app. You can choose what applications to integrate into the app and if they should show up in the messages app. You can also set the row height so you can see more on a page. I was really hoping RIM would pull off something cool like Google Reader sync but no luck. The only other options they give you is the ability to automatically refresh feeds from once every 30 minutes to every 24 hours. Since RIM was built on Push technology I thought they might be able to make use of PubStubHub or RSSCloud when available to offer push RSS… (I dream big) There is the option to check for software updates but currently there are none available.
RIM gives you the ability to manage you feeds to some degree by changing their title and other settings. There is the odd ability to unsubscribe from a RSS feed instead of deleting it… I am not sure what the story is with that.
RIM really added some nice social functions to this by letting you take any item in the Social Feeds app and forward it to any of your accounts. You can also simply hit Menu->New Post to post a quick update to multiple networks at the same time. A very cool feature! Sadly you are limited by the common denominator like not being able to post pictures through the app because BBM and Google Talk don’t support it. In short it is a sweet feature but definitely has room to grow.
The other side of Social Feeds is a nice lifestream view of all of your social network updates. It will pull data from the built in Facebook, MySpace, Google Talk, and other apps into one place. You just click on the item and it will open the respective app. It works nicely and I have to commend the developers who created it. This side of the app also lets you filter the stream by social network.
All in all I have to say RIM is off to a good start with Social Feeds. I really hope they keep it under active development because this could be a hot app for them. Right now it seems to lack the polish of other apps like BlackBerry Messenger and Facebook for BlackBerry. I don’t think I will be able to use it as my only RSS reader but its good enough for most users who just follow a few feeds. I am still hunting for a replacement to Viigo but the pickings are slim… Let me know if you spot anything or manage to make Viigo work!