BLACKBERRY OWNERS should check out FreeNews, one of the smartest applications I've used on my mobile phones. In fact, you don't need a Blackberry -- smartphones run FreeNews. If you like to read your news sources while on the move, FreeNews can deliver full feeds to you through a one-button sync. This is less effort than required to launch a river of news browser. Once you sync--something I do in less than two minutes for more than 80 newsfeeds--you carry your entire river of news with you. In my experience, I can stay updated with the flow of information on Irish websites, specialised keyword alerts, new bookmarks in my del.icio.us network and inside information related to public works projects. Because the newsfeeds download onto your Blackberry (or smart phone), you can peruse what you need while on the subway or flying. I read my newsfeeds aboard Irish Rail and Aircoach (or Air Couch, as one visitor called it). This idea appeals to readers of Tailrank and that news aggregator carved out a little space to hold a cluster of related content.
I discussed my satisfaction with Jon Maroney, the software developer who politely pointed me to FreeNews through a comment he left on my weblog months ago. You can listen to the [30.8 MB 96 kbps MP3 file] podcast of the conversation to learn more.
As Dave Winer points out, "Most people with web-capable mobile devices aren't reading news on them.... The problem with most of the methods people talk about is that they require a lot of effort to set up, or only work in certain contexts, or are a lot of work to use." Unlike the NYTimesRiver-- something I read about through my FreeNews aggie--you have to drive over to mwap.at to download your FreeNews application and enter your user name and password in the applet. Then that's it--no more launching a browser and clicking over to a URL. You launch a single application and it pulls down dozens of newsfeeds in the time it might take to grab a single front page from a mainstream web site. This is an innovative application. It works effortlessly. It enhances the value of a Blackberry. When people see it running and watch the speed at which it delivers meaningful content, their eyes light up.
FreeNews is simple stuff. It's simple to understand and simpler to run. As a matter of principle, mobile phone operators should embed a news reader on their smartphones. Their business customers would appreciate the gesture and the resultant network usage would reflect an increased pattern of usage.