After years of neglect, RSS is enjoying a bit of resurgence. If you use social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook as news sources, you know how little control and influence you actually have on your feed. RSS is the only reliable way to see content that you want to see, as opposed to content that an algorithm wants you to see.
Once you choose to go back to RSS (or get started with an account), you’ll need a news reader to go with it. Thankfully, there are some amazing RSS readers on the iPhone. But how do you find the right one for you? We’ve narrowed down to the top five choices below.
RSS vs. News Readers
First, let’s take a step back and talk about RSS. There’s a misconception regarding what an RSS app really is. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (and no, RSS is not dead). It’s an open protocol that any website can use.
A website’s RSS feed includes its latest posts. The job of an RSS reader is to accept any RSS feed and present its content to you in a list. If you can’t add a new source using an RSS feed link, it’s not an RSS reader.
A prime example of this is Flipboard. Flipboard is an amazing news reading app with a closed system of approved publishers, but it’s not an RSS reader (the same goes for Apple News). You can’t add your own source using an RSS link in these apps.
If you want full control over your news reading experience, we recommend you create an account with Feedly, add your favorite sources, and use an RSS reader app on your iPhone for an improved reading experience.
Ever since Google discontinued Google Reader, Feedly has been the go-to RSS service for most users. And over the past couple of years, Feedly has added new and interesting features, keeping its top place intact.
For years, you might have used Feedly only as a syncing service with third-party apps. Now, it’s time to take a good look at the Feedly app for iPhone.
The new Feedly iOS app is intuitive to use. Once you’ve loaded up your sources, you’ll find your feed of the most important news. You can swipe through the articles and use gestures to go back. When you tap on a link, it opens in the built-in Safari browser, with Reader Mode enabled by default. Tap on the menu button and you can see your entire folder and sources structure.
Plus, the night mode looks particularly good on the newer iPhone models. Because Feedly is the most popular RSS service, it has the most useful Discover tool of any RSS app. It’s a great way to find new sources, and even works as a research tool for a specific topic.
Download: Feedly (Free, subscription available)
If you care about the reading experience over everything else, Unread is for you. This is a thoughtfully designed reading app that pulls content from all your RSS sources and presents it as a text-only list of articles. The app supports popular RSS services like Feedly, Feedbin, Inoreader, NewsBlur, and Feed Wrangler.
The app has no visible user interface elements and thus entirely depends on gestures. When you tap on an article, all you’ll see is text and images. Swipe right to go back; swipe left for options. You can switch to another theme or share the article to another app from there.
The free version lets you read your first 50 articles with Unread (and then three articles a day) at no cost. You can pay $10 to unlock the full app and eight additional themes.
Download: Unread (Free, premium version available)
If you’re looking for a lightweight RSS reader that has a native iOS aesthetic (like the Mail app), Lire is for you. I usest standard iOS design language to present a simple reading experience. But the visual simplicity can be deceiving. The app lets you customize every part of the reading screen, which is what matters most.
The best aspect of Lire is that it’s a full-text reader. Usually, when you’re browsing RSS feeds, you have to tap a link to load the full article in the browser. Lire downloads the full article text automatically for you, converting partial feeds into full feeds. This feature alone makes Lire worth the price for RSS power users.
The app’s discovery section breaks down your subscriptions based on activity. Hot Links will show links that several publications have linked to, while Calm Feeds reveals publications that don’t post too often.
Download: Lire ($7)
4. Fiery Feeds
If Lire feels a bit too barebones, or if you don’t want to buy an app outright, try Fiery Feeds. Just like Lire, Fiery Feeds takes the iOS design language as its base, but also builds on top of it. The app has a bottom toolbar for quick actions and supports navigation gestures as well.
You get access to a couple of color schemes in the free version (along with a nice dark mode). And of course, you can customize the reading view. But if you’re a power user, you’ll want to upgrade to the Premium version for $10/year.
This gives you full-text extraction similar to Lire; the app will load full article text even if the feed is truncated. Plus, you get access to Smart Views that filter out high and low-frequency feeds automatically. This is all in addition to feed management features, and the ability to download full text for selected feeds offline.
A unique feature in Fiery Feeds is its custom themes. You can customize your own themes and even import theme files directly from iCloud Drive.
Download: Fiery Feeds (Free, subscription available)
Inoreader is the preferred RSS sync service for nerds. If you care about the specifics of exactly how your subscriptions sync, and if you want to enable automation and filtering features server-side, you should use Inoreader. But if you choose to do that, you can use any app as a front-end (in fact, Lire is a great reader app for Inoreader users).
While the Inoreader service (and website dashboard) is designed for nerds, the app is designed for everyone. When it comes to the user interface, Inoreader looks more like a traditional news reading app than an RSS reader. You can subscribe to topics to begin with, and the app opens in a magazine view by default.
Go deeper and you’ll find folder structure, dark mode, a shortcut to load the full article text, and a robust tagging system. It also offers a customizable reading screen.
The free account lets you subscribe to 150 feeds. You can pay for the Pro version to get offline mode for selected folders, active search, and the ability to search through all public articles.
Download: Inoreader (Free, subscription available)
The Wide World of News Apps
If you’re just starting out with RSS, try Feedly first. The app will help you discover sources, topics, and websites. And the app has a good reading experience as well. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you can try moving to a more powerful app like Lire or Inoreader. If you only plan on subscribing to a handful of websites and want the cleanest reading interface possible, go for Unread.
As we mentioned, there are a lot more RSS apps available. Many blur the line between pure RSS and a magazine-style news reader. Newsify is a prime example of an app that walks that line well.
If you try your hand at RSS but find it too overwhelming, you can always switch back to news reading apps that handle the experience for you. Apps like Flipboard, News360, and Nuzzel will do the job.