Newstream by 2Billiard icon

Newstream ($2.99) by 2Billiard is your “personalized newspaper” on the iPhone.

I’m sure that we have all heard about those apps on the iPad that turn your device into a custom, digital “newspaper,” but the same hasn’t really been said about the iPhone. That is, until now. Newstream is an even more compact take on that personalized news metaphor, and shows that you don’t need an iPad for that great reading experience.

When the app is first launched, there will be a helpful overlay that will show you the basics of using the app. Once you understand the basics, it’s time to make your iPhone newspaper yours!

Newstream by 2Billiard screenshot

To start adding feeds, just go to the Tools menu (the gear icon in the top left corner). When you go to Manage Feeds, you can add sources via the “+” button in the bottom left. Sources can be added by searching via keyword or URL; when the feed you want pops up, just tap on the checkbox to add it. Feeds can be deleted if you change your mind.

Other settings in the Tools menu include: Options, where you can toggle sync on start, open links in mobile Safari or the in-app browser, interface sounds, and manage your Twitter and Facebook logins.

Once you finish adding in your feeds, you’ll want to check out your mini, custom newspaper. Each feed you add will show up on an interface that looks like newsprint on a woodgrain background. If there are multiple feeds, you can swipe the screen left and right to navigate between them, just as you would on the iOS Springboard. So it comes naturally, just as it should. If you would rather quickly jump to a specific feed, just tap on the feed name at the top to bring up the “Quick Jump” menu, which shows each feed name and the number of unread articles in it (read articles are grayed out, new ones are in black).

On each feed, articles are displayed in a grid-like format, showing the headline, a small thumbnail of the first image (if applicable), and the first couple of lines of text. To refresh a feed, just do that pull-to-refresh gesture we all know and love. When you find an article that piques your interest, just tap on it, and you bring up the full article in an easy-to-read format (sans clutter). The only thing that bothers me is that it doesn’t show bylines (this is actually a pretty big deal to me). Other apps of this nature always display the author name, so I hope that the developers can somehow add this in the future.

When viewing articles, there are four buttons in each corner. The button with the speech bubble icon will give you sharing options: email article or link, Twitter or Facebook. The “open” button (not sure what that icon is supposed to represent) will give you options to open the article in mobile Safari, view with the in-app browser, copy the link, or even print the article. The bookmark button allows you to add the current article to the local Newstream reading list (think Instapaper or Read It Later, even Apple’s own “Reading List”). Your Newstream reading list is accessible from the main screen (feed view). The final button is to just go back to the feed view.

When you view articles with the in-app browser, the experience is very nice. If you tap on various links, you can easily navigate between pages with the back and forward buttons. The option to email the link is there, as well as Twitter and Facebook (the speech bubble icon). The button with the compass icon will open the article in mobile Safari, and the glasses icon will give you a stripped down, readable version of the page (if it’s a full web page).

Newstream definitely does a great job of turning your iPhone into a customized newspaper. I was drawn in with the beautiful interface of the app, and I was not disappointed. I am going to keep Newstream for keeping close tabs on sources I want to read intimately, not just for skimming headlines as I do in Google Reader.

Newstream by 2Billiard screenshot

Speaking of Google Reader, there is no sync with the service in Newstream, but I don’t find that to be a problem. However, for some, it would be a nice feature to have, and perhaps the developer could consider adding it in the future.

Another thing that should be integrated is Instapaper/Read It Later. I am a huge Instapaper user, and while I appreciate the sandboxed reading list of Newstream, I would love the ability to be able to just send an article to my Instapaper account to read later. Maybe there will be a chance to implement this in the future as well.

Besides these two qualms, Newstream is a great way to read on your iPhone. Those that do not have an iPad don’t need to miss out on the awesome personal newspaper experience, thanks to Newstream.

The app is priced at $2.99, which may be a bit high, but it is well worth the price.