Supertop’s Unread (originally created by Jared Sinclair) is my favourite RSS reader on iOS. It’s thanks to Unread that I went back to actively reading RSS feeds on my iPhone. The interface is that good. (Here’s the brief review I wrote in early 2014 when the app first came out.)
The latest 1.5 update is really packed with bug fixes and assorted improvements. When an application has a great, well-designed, user interface, I like to see underlying improvements that make it more versatile and powerful without drastic changes and major disruptions to what truly works. In this regard, I commend the efforts of Supertop’s developers and I think they’re doing a great job.
But I also like to nitpick when an app I love is involved, and in this case my nitpicking is about the changes in the sharing interface.
A few days ago, when Supertop announced the new 1.5 version of Unread on their blog, they wrote this about the improved Readability View (emphasis mine):
This has been, by far, the most common feature request we’ve received for Unread.
Articles that are truncated in RSS feeds or linked from sites like Daring Fireball are now much easier to read. On the article screen, swipe from right to left to bring in the options menu then tap Readability View to load the full text of the article into Unread’s native interface.
This feature is particularly nice when reading at night since Readability View respects your chosen theme and won’t shock your eyes by opening a bright webpage.
The problem is that with the ‘improved’ sharing interface, they kind of went in the opposite direction. I often read RSS feeds at night, so I stick to dark themes for Unread. ‘Dusk’ and ‘Blue Train’ are my favourites, and ‘Halloween’ is truly an eye-saver late at night. It’s like having f.lux on the iPhone, in a way. Here’s an example of how Unread’s sharing interface worked before, taken from Unread 1.4.2 under iOS 7.1.2 on my iPhone 4. Let’s say I want to share an article via Twitter:
Notice how in Fig. 2 the UI of the list of available services perfectly matches the rest of the app’s UI, and also how beautifully integrated the interface for writing the tweet is. It retains the chosen theme’s colour scheme, and offers a dark iOS keyboard.
And here’s the same procedure when I want to share the same article using Unread 1.5 under iOS 8.3 on my iPhone 5:
When iOS share sheet comes up (Fig. 5) and I’m reading articles on my iPhone at night using the Halloween theme, all that white, light grey and bright colours are really a punch in my tired eyes, and the UI feels completely alien, not integrated with the app’s UI. I’m not a developer: I guess this change makes sense from a coding standpoint and in the grand scheme of things behind the scenes. Visually, however, it feels like a step back. Same goes for the (iOS default) Twitter sharing interface in Fig. 6., which is pretty ugly compared with Fig. 3. And this time the light iOS keyboard comes up: again, the effect is rather jarring when you’re using dark themes and reading at night.
About the sharing interface, Supertop wrote:
Unread was originally built before iOS 8 was released and Jared went to extraordinary lengths to integrate the app with services like Facebook, Twitter, Instapaper & Pocket. In iOS 8, Apple opened up integration between apps and services using the share sheet and we have fully embraced that in Unread 1.5.
It is now easier than ever to send links, article snippets and images to any other app on your device, whether to save articles for reading later or publish on your social network of choice.
When I started writing the draft of this article, I initially pointed out that, actually, the services listed in the new, native sharing interface are fewer than what was available before (see Fig. 2), and that I was truly missing sharing to App.Net and Pinboard (the service I use most). But in a following blog update, Supertop wrote:
Instapaper and Pinner (and probably others) currently don’t accept images, so when you try to share a post that has images, they don’t appear as share options. Brian Donohue, the developer of Instapaper tweeted that it’ll be fixed in the next release.
In the mean time, here’s a handy work around: Tap and hold on the article title and a share sheet will appear that is targeted solely for sharing URLs and Instapaper and Pinner will appear here.
It works, and I can share to Pinboard now, but I still think the previous interface — albeit probably more difficult to maintain from a technical standpoint and less flexible overall — felt more integrated with the app and more pleasant to use.