With its integrated RSS reader, the Digg app for Android offers a unique mix of features that set it apart from other news reader apps on the market. It blends Digg's well-known brand of social news with a standard RSS reader similar to the late Google Reader. Unfortunately, though, at this point it seems like neither aspect of this hybrid news app is very impressive. In fact, Digg doesn't even offer a landscape mode or a tablet-optimized version.
The classic Digg experience
The Digg Android app sports a similar look and feel to the Digg.com Web site, with a clean interface that uses plenty of white space to keep things simple. As the companion app to the site, the Digg app similarly lacks key features like comments and categories. Good thing is, the app does perform smoothly, and it reliably syncs to your activity on the Web site.
A simple swipe inward from the left edge of the screen opens the main navigation menu where you'll find, at the very top, a button for Digg Top Stories. This is where you'll find the social news feed that the company has long been known for. The bad thing is, there are no signs of pages for Popular or Upcoming stories, which is a significant letdown considering how important these pages are to the full Digg social news experience on the Web site. Instead, below the Top Stories button, you'll only get links to your Diggs and Saved folders (in addition to your RSS subscriptions).
To make Digg more readable on your device, Top Stories are laid out with images that span the width of the screen and large sans-serif headlines above. Since there are no other controls on this main screen, you'll have to give an article a long press if you want to Digg, save, or share it. Conveniently, Digg also lets you save items to Instapaper, Pocket, and Readability, if you happen to subscribe to any of those services. Tapping an article shoots you over to Digg's internal browser, where you get a bigger screen to read the full text and the same controls for sharing, saving, and so on.
Because the app is missing key features like Popular and Upcoming stories, I'm wondering if the social news aspect might be taking a backseat to the increasingly talked-about RSS reader features. Either way, there's no question that Digg's needs some work in this area if it hopes to gain any ground as a social news aggregator.
With Google Reader now long gone, Digg has graciously stepped up to the plate with its own set of mobile features (and corresponding Web site) for subscribing to RSS feeds.
Digg's reader features are built right into the flagship mobile app, which means your RSS subscriptions and social news are accessible all in one place. This makes for a unique news reading experience that other reader apps -- specifically those dedicated only to RSS subscriptions -- can't mimic. As a whole, this sort of hybrid news reader has big potential, but as you'll see in my points below, Digg needs to add some polish to its idea if it hopes to keep users from turning away.