There are countless ways to scan the news on an iPhone, and even a handful of ways to listen to it. But newly updated Snackr effectively does both, reading aloud the latest headlines and news summaries from a variety of sources--including some personal ones.
In other words, it's like a news "snack"--get it? The app provides five minutes' worth of current headlines, but also lets you shift to other channels for more targeted news: top stories, business, entertainment, and technology.
You can also create your own channels derived from nine broad categories, including sports, science, gaming, and music.
What you can't do, alas, is hand-pick any news sources (like, say, CNET, ahem), nor can you add RSS feeds. But there is some nifty personalization available in the form of customized daily greetings, which include local-weather updates, sports scores, and even notification of friends' birthdays--all courtesy of Snackr's just-added Facebook integration.
The app's interface is fairly straightforward, relying on side-scrolling lists in upper, middle, and lower sections. Up top: channels. Near the bottom: the current batch of stories (any of which you can tap to mark as a favorite or share via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter).
Snackr's midsection consists of a kind of graphic equalizer (which doubles as a play/pause control when you tap it). Swipe left to see the full headline and an accompanying photo. Custom channels let you swipe a second time for access to various settings--including the option to remove unwanted news sources.
If you want to see (but not hear) more of a story, you can mark it as a favorite, then switch to the favorites screen and tap through for the Web-based version.
What's most interesting about Snackr is how it sounds: like a British butler. This very pleasant computer-synthesized voice delivers remarkable clarity and inflection; it's so good that at times I thought I was listening to the BBC. It gets tripped up only by certain proper nouns and too-brief pauses between the headline and the first paragraph of the story (which is all Snackr reads).
I like Snackr. It's like Pulse, but with a welcome audio component. If you ever find yourself wishing for a way to listen to news briefs instead of scanning them on your screen, give this app a try. It's free!