The app is full of small touches that show how thoughtfully it was built. The stories you read are grayed out in the news sections, so you can tell at a glance what you've already read. Circa guides you everywhere in the app, explaining each feature so you never feel lost. I really enjoy the app's clean, dead-simple intuitive design.
One of my only gripes about Circa is that the headlines and summaries can get repetitive. In just one example, a story about the hit mobile game Flappy Bird, the headline, subheadline, and first storyline entry all repeat the same point -- that the app earns $50,000 per day -- with hardly any variation in the writing. I feel like Circa is trying to beat me over the head with that fact.
Another gripe is that you cannot filter out or hide topic sections or keywords in the app. There's no way to personalize the news to fit your interests, like you can do in other apps such as Zite, Pulse, or Flipboard. I hope Circa adds some sort of personalization feature in future updates.
When news breaks
If you come across a story while browsing Circa that you want to learn more about, you can follow it to get breaking news updates in real time. As soon as a new development happens, the Circa team pushes out an update to the app. In using Circa for the last few months, I found these updates to be the most valuable part of the app because they helped me stay informed about my favorite topics, without me needing to do any research on my own.
Circa will also alert you about breaking news you aren't following. For instance, when Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away, I got an alert about it. Circa plans to do more original reporting so that it can break news on its own, instead of waiting for another news outlet to do so.
After inadvertently spoiling the NFL NFC and AFC championship wins in 2014, Circa changed how it handles breaking news to hide the outcome of important games, Oscar wins, and other highly-anticipated events. Now the app is more mindful of people who have recorded shows and games on TV to watch later, and will send out alerts that say "Spoiler Alert: Click through for results of..." so readers can decide if they want to open the alert.
As someone who used to get most of her news from Twitter, I now much prefer to read a Circa story instead because they, more often than not, provide more context that a breaking-news tweet. While news usually hits Twitter faster than it appears on Circa, I think that the app strikes a solid balance of both speed and substance with its breaking-news alerts.
Circa is a simple app that makes it easy to find the latest influential and significant headlines, and get the most crucial facts from them so I don't have to wade through too many details. Its simple design makes it a pleasure to use, and its helpful hints guide you through every feature.
Furthermore, Circa's real-time news alerts can be extremely valuable because they push the most important news to your phone and keep you updated with new developments from stories that you personally care about.
As a news writer, the idea that short summaries may someday trump the longer stories I write doesn't thrill me, but I still see a lot of value in Circa. If, like me, you get overwhelmed with the amount of news coming at you from TV broadcasts, news sites, and social media, Circa is a fantastic free tool to get your news fast and get on with your day.