Blame it on the likes of Flipboard and Pulse, but reading news and following social networks is no longer the routine, “it looks like something out of a browser window” affair. Nay, news apps today are supposed to be snazzy and easy on the eye. Google and Facebook have realized the importance of appearances when it came to news apps, and now Sony has made its Socialife News app available for all Android users – it used to an Xperia exclusive earlier.
The app is a free download from Google Play, and you can get stuck into it as soon as you sign in using your Facebook account. No, we could not see any way of getting around that, unless you opt to use the app without signing in at all. Anyway, once you have signed up, you can also opt to view your Twitter and YouTube accounts through the app, and then sit back and let things get started – it does take a while. Once ready, however, the app does present a very different interface from the ones we are accustomed to. The Headlines section loads by default with asymmetric tiles representing content from your social networks, followed by news feeds. Rather strangely, the app does not ask you which feeds you want to follow at the outset and pretty much decides for you itself – convenient for those who do not like to mess around with feeds, annoying for those who prefer setting them up themselves.
But the main charm of the app is way in which it presents information. In some ways, Socialife News looks like a lighter colored, less symmetrical version of Windows Phone. The subject heads are grouped under tiles, and you can access complete stories by either typing on them or placing your finger on them and swiping to the left. Swiping from the left leads you to the settings menu where you can pick and choose your feeds and connect and disconnect social networks (only Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and VKontakte supported at the time of writing).
It all looks clear and a bit funky, works smoothly and is decently endowed in the function department – you can share links you like, make comments and like Facebook posts, and reply and retweet on Twitter and so on. The problem, however, is that the app really does not do enough to convince us to move from say a Flipboard or a Pulse. Yes, it looks pleasant and its arrangement is a different one but below those good looks, there is not too much substance, at least not at the moment. You don’t get to see full stories, only a couple of paragraphs and have to head to the Web to read the complete versions. You also cannot reorder news sources or social networks and have pretty much to trust the app for the arrangement.
All of which makes Socialife News a bit of a lightweight when compared to the likes of Flipboard, Zite and Google Currents. Yes, it looks pretty and works smoothly enough, but there is at the moment not enough substance to back up the style. However, if you are the type that wants a simple uncomplicated app for your news and social networks, then Socialife News is worth a spin on your Android.
Available from: Google Play