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CTIA 2006

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Disney Mobile Motorola RSS Readers  

Once the domain of tech geeks, RSS is now becoming a mainstream technology. On the web, RSS reader software and aggregator web sites are a great way to keep track of new content on multiple sites all in one place. If you have multiple web sites you check daily for new info and you're not using RSS, you should look into it. It can be a huge time-saver.

Since RSS feeds contain an efficient, simple stream of just the latest information, they seem like a perfect technology for delivering up-to-date info directly to phones. That's why, since the dawn of RSS, mobile tech heads have been begging for good RSS software on mobile phones.

Well, Nokia and Sony Ericsson are finally listening. An RSS reader is now standard in Nokia's S60 3rd Edition smartphone OS, and also on Sony Ericsson's forthcoming high-end feature phones like the K790. RSS reader interfaces can vary wildly, however, so we wanted to see exactly how Nokia and Sony Ericsson actually implemented them. So we set out to put each reader through its paces and give you an up-close-and-personal tour of both.

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Let's start with Nokia, using an E61:


The basic interface used by both Nokia and Sony Ericsson is pretty straightforward, and pretty similar between the two. There's a list of feeds, then going to a feed you see the list of headlines, and then you can drill down to individual items.

That pretty much sums up the Nokia reader. Each item is on its own screen, so you need to press the "Back" soft-key to see the list of headlines again. However you can scroll through items without going back to the list, by pressing left or right. (Indicated in the third screenshot above by the "7/20" and arrows at the top of the screen.)

Because it's RSS, the whole feed is always downloaded all at once. That means opening an item is instantaneous, as is scrolling from one item to the next. That alone makes RSS a massive leap forward over using WAP to stay on top of the news.

Selecting "See full story" opens the attached link in the full web browser (another cool feature of S60 3rd Edition).

The Sony Ericsson reader is a little more advanced. We took it for a spin on a K790:


Sony Ericsson steps it up a notch from the very first screen. The list of feeds includes the web site's graphic icon - the same one displayed in the address bar and bookmarks menu in a PC browser. It also shows the date and time of the last feed update. How often to refresh the feeds is configurable, and you can force one or all feeds to update at any time.

Selecting a feed displays a list of headlines just like the Nokia, although the Sony Ericsson wraps the text so you can see the full headline, instead of just chopping it off. It also displays the feed's graphic badge at the top (usually the site's logo).

Clicking a headline expands that item right within the feed, instead of going to a new screen. That lets you simply scroll down the whole feed from top to bottom in one pass, only expanding the items you're interested in based on the headlines.

Sony Ericsson also supports images in the feed, which is nice since many feeds now include images. There are even an increasing number of feeds on the 'net that rely heavily on images, and would be pretty useless without them, so it's nice to know you can access all feeds and see everything you're supposed to on the Sony Ericsson.

Like Nokia, a link at the bottom will open the URL for that item in the phone's web browser.

As you can see, both phones had no problem with Phone Scoop's RSS 2.0 feeds, although only the Sony Ericsson rendered the images. While Nokia's RSS reader is part of its new full web browser application, Sony Ericsson has the RSS reader as a function within the Messaging menu. That might seem odd, but does make some sense since RSS is all about small bits of (almost) push-style, time-sensitive information, just like SMS and email.

One last little bit of info we picked up at the show about RSS: apparently Cingular is carefully planning how to handle these new RSS-capable phones. They intend to charge an extra $10 per month to use the feature, even if you already have an unlimited data plan. That sounds pretty outrageous to us, and we don't quite understand how they could technically enforce such a scheme, but that's what we were told, and the source was quite reliable.

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