Is there really a cure for information overload? Taptu hopes that its new social news aggregator app for iPhone and Android is the answer, which combines multiple streams of content in one place. My Taptu doesn't deliver a magazine-like experience like the competing Flipboard, but for now that app is limited to the iPad and you're capped at 21 sections of content. And while Pulse News Reader is available for iPad ($1.99) and iPhone (99 cents), you're limited to 60 and 20 content sources, respectively.
The more straightforward and free My Taptu supports at least 200 streams, and its unique mixed topic streams cover your favorite topics from multiple angles. Unfortunately, right now you have to make some trade-offs to get this convience. Are they worth it?
The main page of My Taptu presents a grid of tiles with headlines inside and the name of the category above each stream (Tech & Gadgets, NFL, Twitter, etc.). Scrolling further to the right on any given stream while on the main page presents 25 to 30 more article thumbnails you can click on, and you can keep scrolling right to load more stories. If you want to check out different streams, just scroll up and down. Overall, this interface is fairly intuitive, but we sometimes scrolled across when we meant to go down.
When you click on any given story, you'll instantly see a preview of the article. You can then open the full story within the My Taptu app (which uses the Safari browser) or bookmark it for later. Conveniently, Bookmarks gets its own stream.
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Click to enlargeWant to change the order of streams? You'll need to tap the gear icon in the top left corner and then select Manage My Streams. On that screen you can drag streams wherever you like (pictured right). We'd appreciate this functionality right on the home screen, where you could just press and hold a stream and then move it. However, this might get unwieldy when you have a dozen or more streams.
Streams and Mixed Content Topics
By leveraging a lot of the work Taptu has done with mobile search, this app offers single streams of content from well-known brands (USA Today, Wired, The Huffington Post, InStyle, etc.), which are easily accessible in the app's built-in StreamStore. If you don't see a provider you like, type it into the search box, and My Taptu will find it. Even if the site you're looking for doesn't have a mobile version, the app will optimize its content to create a stream.
Click to enlargeWhat makes My Taptu stand out are the mixed topic streams that aggregate content from multiple sources. For example, when we visited My Taptu's StreamStore within the app and selected NFL, a stream popped up on the home screen that displayed headlines from The New York Times, NBC Sports, The Boston Herald, and Fox Sports. Taptu says its editorial team curates these topics with the help of advanced algorithms that emphasize mobile-friendly sites. Topics range from News, Sports, and Tech and Gadgets to Arts & Entertainment, Travel, and Celebrities.
One of the best features of this app (on paper) is how easy it is to share content via e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook just by clicking the right-facing arrow in the top portion of the screen. However, My Taptu gets a little heavy on the self-promotion here. For example, when sending a tweet the app uses a Taptu URL, as opposed to using a standard link shortener like bit.ly.
Worse still, when you publish a story to Facebook, My Taptu adds the text "Found in My Taptu" before the headline when you post the content to your news feed (see screenshot below).
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There's no way to edit or disable this feature so everything you post to Facebook will have this obtrusive branding. Some users might avoid the app altogether for fear of lending the impression that they're spamming their friends or followers.
The good news is that My Taptu says it will remove the "Found in my Taptu" branding when it releases the next version of the software (1.1), which should be available by the end of November.
Click to enlargeSocial Streams
My Taptu's social networking functionality goes beyond sharing articles. The app lets you add dedicated streams for Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, and if your friend or follower's post has a link embedded, My Tapu will load a preview beneath the update. Well, at least the app tries to load a preview. Over AT&T's 3G network, our iPhone 4 sometimes took 20 seconds or more to fill in the preview. Unfortunately, at least for now you can't reply to social networking posts within the app. It's for reading and sharing only.
Updating Streams and Performance
My Taptu doesn't update content in the background (and therefore doesn't chew through your phone's battery life), but it's easy to get all your streams up to date just by gently shaking your device. You can also refresh content by clicking the Options button to the right of each stream. Refreshed content loaded instantly, but additional articles we scrolled right to access were slow to load over 3G. In addition, the Popular section of the StreamStore was so slow to load over 3G at first we thought it was supposed to be blank with a search box up top. Performance was zippier over Wi-Fi.
Down the road Taptu will allow users to mix their own content streams, which will add much more utility. And the company also has plans to roll out an iPad version of My Taptu. But the most important change Taptu needs to make is to get rid of its forced-branding, which the company promises will happen with the next release. Assuming My Taptu ensures that the user's voice is always heard first, we think time-crunched news hounds will find a lot to like about this app.