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RockMelt for iPhone gracefully goes all thumbs

A few months after its first iPad app, RockMelt releases an iPhone version designed for the smaller screen.

The alternative Web browser RockMelt continues its march on mobile devices by releasing a new iPhone-specific app. RockMelt for the iPhone (download) is not the same version as the iPad app, though. It's been redesigned so that it can be controlled almost entirely with your thumb, an intentional move to emphasize how people use the socially focused browser.

"People aren't reading the New York Times on RockMelt," said CEO and co-founder Eric Vishria in an interview at CNET's office in San Francisco earlier this week. "They're reading these long-tail stories, and that's indicative of the discovery aspect of RockMelt."

The new RockMelt for iPhone 'candifies' its social-sharing buttons. RockMelt

As with its tablet counterpart, the iPhone version of RockMelt is more focused on helping you find new and interesting stories. But the process by which you do that is shaped by which device you're using, and iPhone is most often used with thumbs in landscape or portrait mode.

RockMelt for iPhone is quite intuitive, and its major functions can all be performed with your opposable digit. Tap on a story to read it, swipe to the left to close it, and swipe to the right to save it for later. Tap the RockMelt "R" logo to return to your home stream.

Sharing is much more popular on the iPad version of RockMelt than the old desktop version, and Vishria said he expects similar behavior on the iPhone. "People on RockMelt for desktop are sharing once every 36 hours. On the iPad, it's four times a day." While the desktop versions of RockMelt will continue to function for the foreseeable future, they are no longer available to download for new users.

The sharing tools have been "candified," said Vishria, meaning that the icons are big enough for your thumb to tap and they're more colorful. Turning your iPhone to landscape mode switches RockMelt from a one-column to a two-column view, but it maintains your position so that you don't lose the story you were just looking at. The sidebar syncs with other instances of RockMelt, so using the swipe-to-save for later becomes a one-motion gesture to send a story to your iPad or desktop version of RockMelt.

Accessible with your Twitter, Facebook, or RockMelt accounts, RockMelt is a free download. Future plans for the social browser and discovery engine include an Android version. Vishria said the company has not written off Windows 8, although he wouldn't confirm if it was actively being worked on.