samacharSify Technologies has launched an iOS app for its Samachar.com news portal. The app is available as a free download on the iTunes store.

Not optimized for iPhone 5 screen

We tried the app on an iPhone 5 and noticed that it is not yet optimized for iPhone 5. There are blank spaces at the top and bottom of the app, making it look ugly. The app however worked fine on our fourth generation iPod Touch which comes with a 3.5-inch screen. It’s not clear on why would Sify launch a new iOS app that’s not optimized for the latest iPhone screen.

Way too many clicks needed

The app homescreen includes a Top News headlines which offers news aggregated from various sources. There is also a search and settings icon. Users can swipe the screen to the left to load more headlines and click on any headline to read a short excerpt of the article. In order to read the entire article, users need to click on ‘read more’ hyperlink, which basically loads the entire news article in an in-app browser. We feel there are just way too many steps involved to read an article.

IMG-20130423-WA0010 IMG-20130423-WA0004

Social: Users can share individual news articles on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, although we noticed that the app does not make use of native Facebook and Twitter sharing mechanism on iOS, users have to authorize their Facebook and Twitter accounts to share news on the respective social network. We also noticed that, the app simply shares the URL with the news article headline and doesn’t allow one to add a comment with the news being shared or even modify the message before posting it.

IMG-20130423-WA0002 IMG-20130423-WA0008

Content: While Samachar.com web portal offers news articles in local languages including Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu, Gujrathi, Punjabi and Marathi, we noticed that the Samachar iOS app aggregates news only from English news portals like The Times of India, NDTV, Sify, The Indian Express, FT, Economic Times, Business Line, Harvard Business Week, among others.

One can filter news based on the publication or the news categories or view recommended articles and most Read news articles. Similar to the news reading experience, we noticed that selecting news categories is three clicks away, which is quite frustrating. Why has Sify not focused on providing a simpler news reading experience to the users?

IMG-20130423-WA0000 IMG-20130423-WA0007

Another frustrating part is that the app displays news headlines in night mode by default i.e. white fonts on black background. However, this isn’t truly a night mode – since the article is displayed as it is, in the in-app browser  irrespective of night or day mode.

Besides this, there is a Read Later feature, which allows users to add articles to their read later list for future reading. This list can later be accessed from the app menu. The app also offers an option to customize the font size of the article.

Competition

We feel there are a lot of better apps out there which offers a better reading experience. I frequently use Pulse (recently bought by LinkedIn), Zite, Feedly, Prismatic, and Flipboard on my iOS device. Zite and Prismatic app studies users preference and display news articles as per their taste, which Feedly and Pulse are more subscription based, allowing users to add their preferred sources to the app.