When you’re out about, reading news on your phone can be a frustrating experience. Overlong, not designed for mobile reading - you just want a snapshot of the news that matters to you.
Summly aims to offer this, by producing short 400 character summaries of news stories from a hundreds of news sources across the world. Even better, it’s the work of a 17-year old boy from London, coded from his bedroom, which has now attracted investment all the way from Silicon Valley.
The app opens to a coverpage with the number of Summlys you have to read and a trending story from the day. Click forward to the main screen and you have topics with Summlys you can browse. At the bottom of this list, there is a ‘+’ symbol that allows you to add other pre-selected areas of interest or type in one of your own.
Click into one of the topic areas and you are given a list of headlines – choose one and you are taken into the 400 character Summly, pulled together by an algorithm that knows the most important part of the story, cutting out the stuff that matters less. You can then swipe between stories, double clicking for a more in-depth summary and swiping downwards to be taken to the original source. Finally, touch and hold on a story and you’re presented with a rather lovely animated menu that enables you to email, tweet, Facebook or favourite a story.
It a great experience and a credit to its young creator, with a gorgeous, colourful UI and intuitive gestures that make it easy to use.
That said, there are still some issues. Even though it says it has hundreds of news sources, you very often find topic areas dominated by one source in particular, and some with a very US focus. But one of the main annoyances is that Summlys occasionally don’t read properly, or are filled with grammar mistakes, making it difficult to get to the bottom of what the story is actually telling you. Hopefully this is something that will be addressed in a future update as the algorithm is tweaked and improved.
With big investment behind Summly from investors including Ashton Kutcher and Stephen Fry, we expect to hear plenty more from it and its creator Nick D'Aloisio. It’s already a great experience for catching up with news on the go, with time it will be even better. Watch this space.