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.
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. 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.
Just like with Digg Top Stories, you can swipe or tap any item from your subscription to share, Digg, or save it.
While Digg's controls and visual interface are certainly impressive, make no mistake, this reader does have its share of flaws. On a basic level, it doesn't let you organize your feeds. So, if you want to move a subscription between folders or add a new subscription to an existing folder, you'll have to do so on the Web. In fact, Digg doesn't even let you unsubscribe to sites from the app, which is a shame.
As with many other readers on the market, Digg keeps track of unread items in your feed via small, running counters next to each of your subscriptions. The counters perform reliably, but unfortunately, their helpfulness is handicapped by the lack of a show-unread viewing option. As it is now, the app only gives you a feed of both read and unread items together.
Other features that would be nice to have include swipe gestures, mark as unread, and search.
While the Digg app, with its ample white space and clean typefaces, certainly looks beautiful, there's no question its developers still have a lot of work to do. The Reader features go nicely with Digg's social news, but each element as currently constructed in the app feels unfinished. Case in point, there's no way to view Popular or Upcoming news stories on Digg.
Still, because Digg is a unique sort of news hybrid, and the folks behind it have been openly soliciting and incorporating suggestions from users, I'm confident it will find its way. For now, though, I wouldn't blame you for looking elsewhere for a more full-featured (and landscape-capable) RSS reader.