The hotly anticipated iPad version of Reeder, the popular iPhone RSS app, landed in the App Store last night, and with a clean look and some thoughtful navigational tools, it's immediately at the head of the iPad RSS pack.
A few big name RSS readers, like NewsRack and NetNewsWire, have been available for the iPad for a while now and generally they work very well. But Reeder is the first of the bunch to marry the existing advantages of RSS reading—an efficient, organized way to read sites regularly—with the unique promise of the iPad as a touchable, swipeable slab of news. (Pulse, a novel RSS app which has been in the news lately, truly turns the iPad into a slab of news, though perhaps to the point where some of the headline-scanning simplicity of RSS is lost.)
Anyway, back to Reeder. Its biggest accomplishment is solving the simple problem of making it easy to move through news items. On the desktop, I'm used to at least looking at every item in my feeds, if not reading them entirely, and Reeder for iPad is suited for just such usage. The main menu bar is located on the left side of the screen, so the two arrows for moving up and down through items are positioned right under where your left thumb naturally hovers when gripping the iPad with two hands.
Even better, a forceful flick upward sends you flying past the bottom of the current item you're reading into the next one. This approaches what I always envisioned for iPad RSS reading: infinite news scroll. There's really no reason I should be hunting for tiny "next item" buttons when I could be flicking my way through an endless stream of news.
Aside from those thoughtful navigational touches, Reeder excels at iPad RSS reading on the terms set by the readers that came before it. It syncs with Google Reader flawlessly and quickly; it caches posts for offline reading; tapping a headline takes you to the full post in an in-app browser for truncated feeds; and it offers a bevy of ways to share news items with others (Twitter, email) or save them for later perusal for yourself (Instapaper, Delicious.)
The design is clean and consistent, which is a good thing, but there's definitely some room for improvement here. The app is generally gray and drab, which is sort of a bummer and leaves posts less dynamic than they could (or ought to) be, and the typography doesn't do much to alleviate this feeling of sameness throughout the app. Also, the infinite scroll flick I mentioned above isn't quite sensitive enough—it sometimes needs more than a single strong thumb drag to activate, making you move your hand and losing some of the magic for a moment. These aren't insignificant issues, but they're ones that could easily be addressed in future issues with some small tweaks.
Reeder isn't a perfect RSS app, but it's got some very compelling features that will keep it in my iPad's dock. If you're passionate about your RSS and have been waiting for your news apps to dive a little deeper into what the iPad has to offer as an RSS reading device, Reeder's worth a look. $5. [iTunes]