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Circa News (Android) review: Just the news you need, when you want it

For those who don't have time, or don't want to read lengthy news stories, Circa condenses top stories into bite-sized reports.

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Sarah Mitroff
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Sarah Mitroff

Managing Editor

Sarah Mitroff is a Managing Editor for CNET, overseeing our health, fitness and wellness section. She's written for Wired, MacWorld, PCWorld, and VentureBeat.

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5 min read

Circa News (Android|iOS) is a free news app that condenses top stories from the US and around the world into short, quick-read summaries so that you can stay on top of the news when you only have a few moments to spare.

Circa_Android_Sections.png
8.8

Circa News (Android)

The Good

<b>Circa News</b> for Android makes it easy to find the news you want to read and gives you short news summaries that don't waste your time.

The Bad

There's no way to personalize the news you get to fit your interests.

The Bottom Line

Circa is a fantastic free tool for reading breaking news and staying informed wherever you are.

The news team behind Circa combs through press releases, blog posts, and new stories from major publications to get the most crucial bits of information, including quotes and photos, then combines each tidbit into a short article, called a storyline. You can follow storylines to get updates on new developments and browse the news by categories, such as technology, and science and health.

Circa's bite-sized bits of news (pictures)

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Apps like Circa that deliver just distilled tidbits of news have started gaining steam lately. Yahoo unveiled an app called News Digest during CES 2014 and this month an app called Inside launched for iOS and Blackberry. Both titles share similar missions with Circa: To make it easier to find and read the news that matters. Neither News Digest or Inside are available for Android as of yet, so I can't compare the experiences to Circa here. However, I am not in a rush for either to pop up on the platform, because I find Circa lives up to its hype by giving me just the news details I want in a clean, well-designed app.

Getting started
What I like about Circa is that you don't need an account to use the app. However, signing up lets you follow storylines and get alerts when a new development happens. You can log in with Facebook, Google+, or an e-mail and password.

Just a note, Circa's news team writes the content in the app in English. Circa does not yet have options for other languages.

Keeping up with the top stories
The app is divided into six news sections, with the top headlines on the first page. Swipe left or right to bring up news from the United States, worldwide headlines, politics, technology, and science and health. You can also jump directly to any section from a hidden menu that shows up when you swipe from the far left edge of your screen.

In each topic section, stories are organized by date, with today at the top, yesterday below that, followed by stories from "earlier this week."

Circa has six sections of headlines including US and world news, technology, and science and health. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Each news entry in Circa is called a storyline, where facts, quotes, and photos from various sources are separated into short morsels of news that give you just enough information without overwhelming you with too many details.

At the bottom of each storyline, you'll see related stories and citations, which is helpful if you want to read a full news story or do your own fact-checking.

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.

Each story includes a headline, photo, and details about the news report. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

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.

Conclusion
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.

Circa_Android_Sections.png
8.8

Circa News (Android)

Score Breakdown

Setup 10Features 8Interface 9Performance 9
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