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SmartNews review: Great for both online and offline news reading

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The Good SmartNews makes browsing the headlines easy with an intuitive tabbed interface. You can read stories offline because of set delivery times.

The Bad You only get a handful of news sources you can use as channels, but all major news sources show up as part of your feed.

The Bottom Line With an interface that lets you browse headlines quickly, customize your channels and read the news offline, SmartNews is an excellent free alternative to other popular news apps.

Free

8.5 Overall
  • Setup 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Interface 9.0
  • Performance 9.0

Review Sections

SmartNews (iOS|Android) is a free newsreader that lets you browse the latest headlines across several different news categories with an elegant swipeable interface. It's also quick to load as you navigate each category, with all the latest news stories refreshing behind the scenes.

SmartNews is already popular in Japan as it finds trending news stories based on real-time analysis of Web pages shared across social media. Now available in the United States, SmartNews is a great way to view the top stories in several news categories based on other users like you.

A great way to browse stories

Immediately upon launch, the layout of the app is extremely intuitive, giving you tabs at the top for each news category that you can touch or swipe left or right to switch among categories. The cool thing about SmartNews is that all the stories are already loaded, so even when commuting through the tunnel or flying on an airplane with no connection, you can still read all the stories from the last update.

In each category, stories are listed with a headline and small thumbnail, and you can scroll down to view more stories. Swiping between categories is incredibly smooth, with a page-turning animation and superfast load times because -- as I mentioned before -- the stories are all already preloaded.

You also have the option to enter your Twitter and Facebook accounts, but all that does is add a Social tab to your categories that gives you news stories shared by people and organizations you follow.

Categories and custom feeds

The first tab gives you the top stories trending right now, but there are also categories for Entertainment, Sports, Lifestyle, Tech, US News, World News and several others. SmartNews calls these categories channels, and you have a couple of different ways to customize them and their layout.

By swiping downwards, you can reveal the app settings (a gear icon) in the upper right. At the top of the settings list is Channel Settings where you can rearrange how the tabs will appear on your main screen and new channels from the sites you like most.

Below the Channel Settings is an Add Channels section. Here, you can sort available channels by featured, popular or broken out into categories. When you touch one of the websites offered, you'll see a quick preview of what it looks like and you can touch the add button to add a tab. When you add a channel, such as CNET, SmartNews will create the new tab on your main screen that just shows the top stories from CNET. Just like the other categories, your CNET channel will show headlines and thumbnails, letting you swipe to scroll through more stories.

The other option for adding a quick channel is to swipe all the way to the last tab and touch the plus sign. Here you'll find the same layout from the Add Channels section, but it's great when you just want to add a single channel for quick access.

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