Circa, a news app, just released for Android. Oh hey, wait! Come back!
No no no – hear me out! This isn’t a typical news app. I wouldn’t ask you to install another app requiring you to scroll through screen after screen and wade through really long articles that are identical to the articles you’d find on the sources’ website. No, that seems like a lot of work and Circa wants to do that work for you.
What Circa Does
Circa brings the news to you in a really unique and beautiful way. I actually downloaded it on a whim today – not expecting to like it. And I didn’t like it… I loved it. Like immediately, I loved it. And the more stories I read, the more I loved it.
My Feedly account has kind of become a Wild West of words. I follow so many similar sites on Feedly that as I scroll through my feeds I may see basically the same headline a dozen times back to back, from different websites. Or I may see the story break; and then another headline five minutes later, and then another 15 minutes after that. So which story do I read? All of the sudden just getting caught up on a news story takes lots of work and turns into a time consuming project.
Circa believes they have a solution. News stories become storylines. If I like a storyline I follow it, read the story and then go on with my life. The editorial team at Circa stay hard at work and if any news breaks in the story I’m following they add it to the storyline and I get a push notification on my phone.
Using the App
So that’s a high level picture of what the app does; let’s look at the app itself now. The reader immediately sees a clean design and really great pictures to accent the headlines. The upper-left of the screen shows the familiar hamburger menu when, if clicked, shows a list of news categories. However, I found my fingers intuitively swiping left or right to toggle between news categories (more on that later), all the while enjoying the subtle and effective scrolling animations. I loved the safe feel of Holo design while still feeling like I was in an app that had it’s own personality and wasn’t just another run-of-the-mill news app for Android.
After I installed the app, I checked out the Technology category first. Oh what’s that? A Half-Life 3 article? Yes, please!
As soon as I open the article (as a new user) the app gave me a little hint to tell me I can follow this storyline and I’ll be notified (via push notifications) as soon as new content about this topic is available. I love that!!
Even though the Android version of the app just came out, Circa actually launched an iPhone version of the app last Fall. The company is located in San Francisco and they use their own in-house editorial team to scour news stories and basically give their readers the nuts and bolts of the story. So instead of having to read an entire article full of blah blah blah, I was able to read the really important, informative aspects of the story, see some cool and effective pictures and then BAM! I was on my way. I love this aggregated format – all killer; no filler.
Circa’s UI begs to be touched. Swiping left to right on the main screen will changes categories. Swiping up or down will show you the stories. Once you’re in a story, swiping left or right switches between stories in the category; while swiping up or down allows you to read the story you’ve currently opened. Simple and effective.
As you can see in the below screenshots, the aggregated content comes to readers in the format of cards – something Google and Android users are pretty used to seeing by now. I really like this format. As a reader is reading one card, the one below it is slightly shaded out. A subtle, yet really nice design choice. Everything that Circa has done in this app, from design to content, results in a really fantastic user experience. The reader is given information in an easy, simple and effective format.
Of course, there are share buttons on the top of screen or at the end of the story. What’s the point of reading something if you can’t tell people about it? Also, at the end of a story, there are options to read similar stories.
Currently, I’m following a storyline about the game Half-Life 3; and another really cool aspect of Circa is that it knows what I’ve read already. So as news is added to this storyline I don’t have to scroll through an overwhelming chronological timeline of words; rather the app will present to me any new data first and then follow it with the previously read data, in order of importance.
Also, within any story, I can check footnotes by tapping on the ever-present info icon at the top of the screen. I mean, I love this app… and so far I have zero complaints about any editorial choices that I’ve come across… but how do we know these folks aren’t full of shit? Well… the editors show us where they got their info. And, as a reader, if any of the sites that they cite seem interesting to me, I can tap on the link and read the full story from the original news outlet.
When it comes to a news reader for Android, there are certainly a lot of choices. I think Circa stands out and is really exciting because they’re actually producing new content. With Circa I’m not seeing the same headline repeated over and over again in my feed. Sure, they’re making their original content by pulling from other articles, but they’re aggregating the really important information and presenting it in a beautiful and easily-digestible format. And that easily digestible part? That’s huge. I’m not the busiest dude on the planet, but I don’t always have time to read an entire article. The elevator ride just isn’t that long. So having an app like Circa give me the main points of a story has been surprisingly helpful to me.
Look, I get it. It’s a news app. How great can it be? You should try it. It’s free and only takes a second to get it going. It might just change the way you read your news.