So after my disheartening review of Flipboard, this time I decided to go with an app that I was certain I would have some positive things to write about. This is an app I’ve had some previous experience with and have enjoyed using.
It’s definitely grown up a lot since the last time I saw it. On the App Store it’s listed as version 2.1. I think I used it back in the day of 1.0. But the basic idea is still the same, it has just become more refined, which is good to see that it is still developing.
“Circa’s writers break news down into essential points (facts, quotes, photos, and maps) for quick reading on the go,” the app says when you open it for the first time. That’s pretty much all there is to the app, which isn’t a bad thing.
Circa takes stories and condenses them into easy to scroll through bullet points. It’s basically the SparkNotes version of a news article.
Personally, I find it very visually appealing. It’s a simplistic layout, nice and clean. Everything about it feels very easy from the appearance to the actual content.
It saves you time wading through all the fluff of news articles. Although if they’re well written news articles, there shouldn’t be much fluff — but that’s another story.
Anyway, I find this app to be smart and practical. It’s fitting for a speed reader, impatient teenager (I’m almost not a teenager so I’m milking that excuse for all it’s worth) such as myself.
But it’s also fitting for those who are patient and do take the time to read longer articles. It’s good for news briefs, but it also provides citations that link to longer articles on the subject and suggests related Circa articles. I’ve never felt at a loss for information or as if the app was giving me a rushed version of the story, that’s not what its goal is.
Circa is good for building a basic knowledge base on an issue or event. It’s like an intro course, and sometimes that’s all you really need.
It’s up to the reader as to whether or not they are interested enough to delve into the topic more. And even so, it’s not to say that Circa leaves the reader with a really vague idea of the issue, it still gives a pretty strong overview and summary of what’s going on.
I’d recommend downloading it and checking out the interface if my explanations haven’t already enticed you. It’s something that’s worth experiencing, a clever idea if nothing else.
One feature I’d like to praise is the “follow” option. Once having read a story, it turns slightly gray on your home screen – great for people like me who sometimes forget whether or not they’ve already read something. But you can choose to tap an icon that looks like a bookmark in the upper corner of the story to follow it.
This means that Circa will send you push notification updates as the story develops. So it doesn’t just leave you hanging. If you’re interested in a story, Circa helps you follow its progression and keeps you in the loop. You can even see a compiled list of all the stories you’re currently following and delete old ones quickly. This is a helpful feature of the app.
The one thing I’d like to see it do is expand its sections. It currently offers articles on the United States, politics, world, technology and science & health.
I like that it’s more hard news, which was my complaint with Flipboard, but it could see some expansion. If they don’t have the means to produce more content, they should at least break the content they have now into more specific sections. Maybe have a search option or tag articles?
Mobile site: It exists, but it just tells you how to download the app on your phone. They have a field where you can enter your e-mail or phone number and it’ll send you a download link. #cool
Free: Yes. Although if they were to expand sections in the future like I’m suggesting, I wouldn’t mind paying for a new one. Sort of like a 99¢ add-on or something like that. If they really needed to money in order to create more content. Just thinking out loud here.
Original content: Yes? Somewhat. This distinction is basically the premise of the app. For the most part, the app doesn’t do firsthand reporting, but it paraphrases information taken from primary sources. It uses a lot of quotes, which I like. There are lists of citations at the bottom of its articles if the reader wants sources or further information. Its job is to condense this information into quick points.
Push notifications: Yes, and it has some good customization options. You can independently turn on and off updates for stories you follow, breaking news, and other updates for push notifications as well as e-mails. There’s also a weekly top storyline digest that you can choose to subscribe to via e-mail.
Simplicity: Pretty user-intuitive. I think it’s a lot more straightforward than Flipboard. Its an app that’s only trying to accomplish one thing, so it’s pretty easy to understand. The home page is a small range of categories that lead to the stories. That’s pretty much all there is to it, and that’s all it needs.
Recommend to: Those who want news quickly. And who doesn’t? Especially in situations where it’s an issue people want to keep up on but don’t necessarily need every detail, it can be a valuable app. It boils everything down to the basics. But I think this is an app that all kinds of news consumers can yield something from. You just have to choose whether this is your main course or a side dish.
Score out of 10: 8/10, it’s a pretty great app, but still maybe leads a little bit more to desire in some areas. It could use some more categories to choose from. The areas from which you can choose to read from are very broad and a little tricky to find specifics stories. But the core idea and setup of the app have been developed strongly, so now it’s just about tinkering with the interface and adding things. Unlike Flipboard,which I believed was trying to do too much — Circa has taken one idea and focused on it until it is effective.
Verdict: Keep! Definitely a useful app for staying informed, especially on a basic news level. Maybe not the best app for niche interests or delving into particular areas of news, but it covers a good amount of information in a way that is easy and fun to read. I plan on working it back into my news consumption habits.