Recently Unread 2 came out, and it had a bunch of the features I wanted after my initial review of Unread. It also launched with a bit of controversy, as many apps do currently. It's no longer something you can simply purchase, it's a $20/year subscription. I get why developers do this, they want some ongoing revenue so they can keep delivering features to those that are paying to use the app instead of building some monumental release and then charging for it again.
I also look at my monthly expenses and understand why people are not loving subscriptions. Each one that I look at, no matter how much Iike the service or application, feels like a bit more blood being drawn all the time.
Today, we're going to look at what you get with Unread 2. Is it worth $20/year or should you stick with something else that doesn't have this ongoing cost?
To test out Unread 2, you get a trial of 50 articles with all the features the app brings to the table. This feels like a long enough trial to me for almost anyone to decide if they like the application or not. You're certainly not getting only a subset of features and then needing to upgrade to the "Pro" version to try out the things you really want. Unread 2 gives you it's full feature set for 50 articles without issues.
When I first reviewed Unread the biggest thing I loved about the application was that it was beautiful. At the time I said:
It quickly became the reading experience by which I judged all other reading experiences. Where Instapaper and Pocket had once looked beautiful, they now feel like they lack in their typography and design.
That statement holds true today. Unread maintains it's crown as my favourite reading experience for any RSS reader on iPad or iPhone. I especially like the thumbnail view you can get by adjusting the app settings.
Even the options for design are all well considered. You can change the font sizes and have some choices in exactly what your dark or light theme will be, but you can't get crazy and turn this beautiful app into something that is an abomination to the eyes.
The new features is where Unread 2 really shines though. My favourite feature is the support for keyboard shortcuts. Unread 2 can be navigated entirely from the keyboard. You can get to settings, scroll articles, take actions on articles, and anything else without having to leave the keyboard. Maybe my favourite keyboard command is
Shift+⌘+X which clears all the articles you've already read. In other RSS readers you have to go out of the article view and then back into it to get this to happen, which is just a waste of time.
I still have an issue though, but only because I'm a huge nerd. I wish it had Vim based keybindings too. I'm sure a bunch of you are wondering what that is. I said I was a nerd and let's leave it at that. I wish for this, and know that few other people are going to even think about it so I'll just wish and get used to the amazing keybindings in Unread 2.
Another great feature is how Unread 2 automatically pulls in the full-text of the webpages you're viewing. No more seeing an excerpt and needing to visit the site to get to the actual article. No more needing to activate the functionality in your feed reader to pull in the full article. Unread 2 will simply do this for you.
I've even had it pull in the full-text for some sites where membership is required. I assume it's using Safari on my iPad for this because there I'm signed in and have full access to the text.
A big issue with Unread was it's lack of support for subscription management. You couldn't add a feed, or stop subscribing to something from the application. You'd have to go to your feed management site, or open up another reader you kept around for management, and then deal with any additions or subtractions to your list of feeds. Unread 2 now has full support for adding and removing feeds from your subscriptions.
Unfortunately there is a bit of hidden UI here to add a feed. When viewing all your feeds you need to swipe from right to left and then you'll bring up the ability to add a feed, and do some other management items pertaining to your feeds. To remove a feed, long press1 and you'll be able to edit the feed or unsubscribe from it. I feel like just a bit of UI like a small read
+ "Subscriptions" wouldn't detract from the overall design and would resolve this hidden UI issue.
One of the areas that Unread 2 is currently lacking is in its support for the new trackpad gestures in iPadOS. Yes I know they're new as in released just after Unread 2 was released. So I won't fault them entirely, but as I use the application it still is something I'm missing. Once I was working through RSS feeds I simply expected to be able to swipe individual articles around and have it do something.
I know that Unread has changed hands since my first review, but I still feel worried that we'll never see updates that support the trackpad gestures because we never saw good updates to the original version of Unread. If you think it should have trackpad support, don't assume it's coming until it's actually shipped in the application. I was previously told more than once that keyboard shortcuts were coming to Unread, and it only happened over 18 months later when we got Unread 2.
Yes it does do something with the context menu, which you can access with a two finger tap from your trackpad, but I don't think this goes far enough. I want to see swipe in one direction marking an item as read2. Swiping the other direction should give you other actions, like sending the article to your read-it-later service or bringing up the Share Sheet.
Either way, we need some better support for actions on single articles all around, and that should include supporting iPadOS 13.4 trackpads.
The big question with Unread 2 is, should you pay $20/year for an RSS app? Yes it's the best looking reading experience of any RSS app I've looked at. Yes, it's thoughtful in all it's features. Yes, the subscription price is low, but it is yet another subscription to deal with in your budgeting.
When it comes to RSS readers I feel like this question is hard for so many people, because they don't make their money by reading RSS feeds. If this was a $20/year subscription for some business task that made your life better, then the answer is easy. Do it. But for most of us, myself included in many ways, we read RSS because it's a way to keep up on sites without visiting them all the time.
Maybe a better question is, am I paying $20 to use this application for the next year? The answer is yes I am. While my other feed readers are nice, the reading experience is simply much cleaner and I find I have an easier time focusing with the clean UI that Unread 2 provides. If I can focus a bit better and not waste a bunch of time looking through feeds, then the productivity savings are there in my year to justify the $20 expense.
If you don't think that will make a difference to you, then maybe look at one of the other highly competent RSS reader out there like NetNewsWire, which I will be reviewing in the coming weeks.