Newsbeat is a new app that is really truly different. It’s a news aggregator like your standard news app or RSS app but instead of just delivering news for you to read, Newsbeat will read you the news. If you’re like me and read articles pretty much all day, being able to listen to it for once instead of reading sounds like a great idea. In this review, we’ll see just how good it is. As usual you can watch it above if you don’t want to read it.
Okay so what does this app do? It’s a news aggregator not unlike RSS. You tell it your interests and what publications you like and it will fetch news from sources that report on that kind of news. What’s interesting is that while you get the option to read the articles, you also get the option to listen to them. That’s right; this app will read the news to you in a news radio style format so you don’t have to read it.
The voices aren’t perfect but they are pretty good. They even have voice inflections to make them sound real. Some who have used the app already have stated preference between the male and female voice, but frankly both are about equal. There is still that robotic tone every now and then, especially when they try to pronounce difficult words or people’s names but they do well at sounding real enough to where it isn’t distracting when listening to the news.
The app goes the whole nine yards to make it sound like a radio show. When you open the app, it’ll greet you by name if you have your name entered into the app. It’ll give you your local traffic rundown sometimes which I thought was a nice touch. It then proceeds to read the news articles back to back until there are none left. When it reads articles, it’ll state the source and the author in a manner you’d expect a radio host to do.
Of course, you do still have the option to read the news. You can pause at any time and scroll through articles on your own if you prefer. The only real issue we found was a lack of sources. It seems to take more from local publications and worldwide news sources so you don’t get too many options when it comes to where it reads the news from.
The design is pretty decent. It’s not overly colorful but it is easy to navigate so no one should have any problems figuring out where to go. There is a hamburger menu on the left side where you can check out the app preferences or get to the news. Articles have two interfaces. You can look at them one at a time or use a second interface to swipe through them if you prefer. It was a little laggy here and there but not so much to make the app unpleasant.
Once the voices start to read the news, there will be a notification that pops up. You can swipe it away without interrupting the voices but it apparently comes back after a short time which can get annoying if you’re OCD about keeping your notification drawer cleared out. In the notification there are skip buttons as well as a pause and play button so you can skip news or pause it if need be.
- This app is just a great idea. Reading article after article can be tedious and trying to keep up with the news all day that way can be tiring and frustrating. With this, you turn it on, connect some headphones or a speaker if need be, and let some robot people read you the news. It is much less stressful on your eyes too since you don’t have to stare at a little screen to read it if you don’t want to.
- The voices are actually really good. As mentioned there are moments where they sound blatantly robotic and you never shake the knowledge that they are fake voices but they read the news so you don’t have to and they do it pretty well. This includes small things like pronunciation that a lot of robot voices screw up.
- The app strings together the intro when you open the app, the local news, and each story in the flavor of a radio show. This includes short music bursts between stories and specific phrasing that you’d hear in a radio show. The male and female voices also interchange occasionally giving the illusion of multiple hosts. These aesthetics are purely atmospheric and not really functional, but it makes the whole thing sound coherent and it makes the experience more enjoyable.
- Lastly, the app content is fairly customizable. While the sources are lacking, you still get to choose what topics you see. If you have no interest in, say, politics, then it won’t read you any political news.
- This app seriously needs more sources. We assume they’ll be adding more as time goes but for the time being there aren’t all that many places to draw news from. So don’t expect to be able to follow your favorite blogs like Android Authority just yet.
- While the topics are fairly customizable, they aren’t totally customizable. For instance, I like hockey but I dislike pretty much every other sport. I can have the app deliver sports news, but not specifically hockey news. So it’ll read me a bunch of football free agent signings that I don’t care about before it’ll read me the Columbus Blue Jackets game recap. That’s just one example, there are plenty of others.
- The playback controls, notifications, etc are a little wonky sometimes. Clearing out a notification usually results in it coming back a few minutes later and the app has started reading articles before on its own when a story hits the news feed. It’s not terrible but some more control over the controls would be nice.
If you’re into RSS and reading the news, this app presents a unique premise that is difficult to pass up. It’s not difficult to read while on a subway or a train but if you’re driving or walking it’s probably more convenient to listen to the news rather than try to read it and this app shines in those kinds of situations.
We wish there were more sources. That’s about the only weakness that Newsbeat has and unfortunately it’s a pretty bad one to have. We’re sure they’ll add more eventually but until then you’re stuck with the biggest dogs in media who don’t already do the best reporting on things. Even so, the app is wonderfully done and we recommend you give it a shot if only to see if you like it.