If you take a look at the free news apps on the App Store, you’ll see quite a diverse mix of RSS readers, read-later apps (such as Instapaper and Readability), and magazine/social feeds (such as Flipboard and Pulse). There haven’t been many newcomers of note to this category in the past few months, but I’m happy to say that Skimn, a new app from Luke Beard and Nicholas Eby, has potential to compete with the best of them. It has a nice interface, sharing features, and fast article downloads. But as you probably know, those things on their own don’t make a great RSS reader. Let’s take a closer look.
Skimn’s design is similar to that of Pulse, in the way it manages sources with off-canvas navigation. The main middle pane is where the body of articles is displayed, with a list of articles shown in a off-canvas view to the left. The whole idea makes a lot of sense when you’re using it, since Skimn does a great job of downloading the latest articles and showing them right away.
Reading in Skimn is not very different from other RSS apps, apart from the fact that it doesn’t have portrait mode support yet (which is quite surprising, considering most people read on their iPads in that orientation). You can change the font from the default Helvetica to a clean serif, and the app has a night mode.
One minor design annoyance I have with Skimn is the reverse gradient on selected articles and sources in the sidebars. It feels as if they’re always being tapped as you use the app. Yes, I know it’s a small issue, but one that’s been bugging me.
As a pure RSS reader, Skimn is great. Like I mentioned before, the download speeds (including all the images) are very quick, even faster than Reeder on my iPhone, so you aren’t left hanging when reading a lengthy article. Also, adding sources is simple and fast, although it would be nice if the app had Google Reader support so you don’t have to manually add each one of your favorite feeds. Sharing what you’re reading is much easier, just like it should be in iOS 6.
Reading with Skimn is a great experience, but I wish it worked offline. Yes, there’s no caching of articles (and if there is, it’s a shame you can’t get past the splash screen). That is almost a dealbreaker for me, since most of my reading on my Wi-Fi only iPad is done when I’m not connected. Hopefully Eby will add that neccessity in version 1.1.
For the past week I’ve been reading most of my RSS feeds in Skimn (when I’m online), and I can say it’s a great experience, even if it is lacking in some important areas. From the interface, to the searching capabilities, to the outstanding price of $0.00, I can recommend Skimn to those of you who are looking for a quick way to catch up on your favorite sites.