We live in the Information Age. Which is good, because you can get information about anything within seconds. And… not so great, because you end up getting a lot of information that is actually of not much earthly good to you, and you generally discover that only AFTER you have read some of it. Call it information overdose or what you will, the fact is that while a normal day still has the same twenty four hours that it has always had, the amount of information that tends to deluge one in the same period has gone up., Exponentially. And this is particularly so in the case of news, where one tends to end up getting endless updates. One can tackle the situation by either developing a filter system of one’s own or alternatively, going the appy way and getting an app that does so for you.
And one of the apps that revels in this sort of situation is the aptly named Summly.
Marketed as “pocket sized news for iPhone” (it works on the iPad too, but take our word for it, it works best on the iPhone or iPod touch) Summly specializes in serving up algorithmically generated summaries of news items to your handset. That in itself would be pretty handy – imagine having to go through 400 characters rather than 800 words to get to grips with a development – but what makes the app really stand out is the manner in which this has been implemented. Once you have downloaded the 36 MB app (a bit hefty for a news app, we agree, but read on) and launched it, what you get to see are a series of tiles one below the other, representing different topics under which the news summaries have been grouped.
To read what’s under each head, just tap it once and you will see the summary of a story. To see a slightly more detailed version of the story, tap twice, and if even that does not suffice, you also have the option of reading the entire story in all its Web glory from within the app. Swipe upwards from the first summary and you are back on the home page with the subject tiles. Swipe to the side from the first summary and you go to the next summary. Want to refresh the stories under a particular topic? Just hold and pull the tile to the right. Want to share a summary on Facebook or Twitter? Just long press on the story and the options literally bloom around it like a small flower.
Yes, you can opt to pick and choose which subjects you wish to get news about, and also include new ones if you want something more specific, and you can also choose which sources you want news from, under different heads (although, alas, we could see no way of adding a source), but at the end of the day, what you are going to remember the most is the elegance of the interface. The summary algorithm works fine in most cases, giving you a sense and a flavour of the story in a paragraph at first glance.
All of which make Summly one of those rare apps that are useful and look good as well. Now, this is how news should be handled in the Information Age. Must download? Must must.
Available from: iTunes App Store