The recent wave of news-aggregation apps has centered around the rise of the iPad platform. One of the chief charms of Smartr—a free offering from Factyle—is its focus on the old-fashioned iPhone.
Smartr’s primary task is simple: It takes the links your friends post to Twitter and Facebook, and converts them into an attractive summary list of news stories and blog posts optimized for the iPhone’s screen. The links can be reshared in both those social networks, saved to Instapaper, or they can be published to your Tumblr or Posterous blog. (The app crashed, however, every single time I tried to share a link on Posterous.)
One other minor complaint: the Twitter and Facebook streams must be viewed separately. Apps like SocialPhone show that those feeds can be combined; it would be nice to have the option here.
Smartr is less successful in trying to create its own social network. Users are invited to follow the links shared and posted by their friends in the Smartr network—but I had no friends within the network. Alternatively, the app offers a list of 10 power users you can follow. But the only other way to grow your Smartr circle is to invite friends to join, requiring you to be an evangelist. It’s difficult to make your way into the Smartr community unless you already have a Smartr community.
But this app is enjoyable to use even if you never engage the Smartr network. For those of us who still use the iPhone to read and track the news, Smartr is an elegant solution.
[Joel Mathis is a freelance journalist and political columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. He lives in Philadelphia.]