With its newly integrated RSS Reader, the Digg app for iOS offers a unique mix of features that set it apart from other news reader apps. It blends Digg's well-known brand of social news with a standard RSS reader similar to Google Reader. Unfortunately, though, at this point it seems like neither aspect of this hybrid news app is very impressive.
The classic Digg experience
The Digg iOS 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 its best to make up for these omissions with smooth performance that 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 buttons for Popular or Upcoming stories, which is a significant letdown considering how important these features are to the full Digg social news experience on the Web site. Below the Top Stories button, you'll also see links to your Diggs and Saved folders.
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 left-swipe if you want to Digg, save, or share it. Conveniently, Digg also lets you save items to Instapaper or Pocket, if you choose to log into 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 newly integrated RSS reader features. Either way, there's no question that Digg's social news browser needs a lot of work.
With users scrambling to find an alternative to Google Reader, 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 Digg iOS 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 doesn't want users to turn away.
One thing that's great about Digg's reader is how easily it lets you import your Google Reader subscriptions. From the app, all you have to do is log in with your Google credentials and wait a few seconds for it to populate with all of your subscriptions and folders. There's no need to use Google Takeout, and no need to upload any OPML files. The app also lets you add subscriptions straight away by typing a URL into the Add screen, or if you don't have a specific URL in mind, you can browse Digg's curated list of sites (organized by category) to see if anything interests you. From the list, you can add individual sites a la carte or entire categories at once, which is convenient. After importing, you should see all of your feeds lined up in the sliding menu on the left.