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If you’ve been looking for a new way form of entertainment for your commute, your morning jog, or your time at the gym, iOS and Android users can take advantage of a new free app, Umano. The idea behind Umano couldn’t be simpler, and it’s surprising that no one has thought of this before now. Umano has a team of professional voice actors recording readings of articles from popular online sites and magazines from around the Web. Bringing podcast or audiobook elements to the fast-paced world of blogging and online articles makes perfect sense.
Signing up for an account allows you to create a playlist and manage your favorite articles, but the app is otherwise completely usable without signing up for an account. To sign up for an account, you can log in using your Facebook credentials, or create a new account with your email. The real advantage to creating a playlist is that it gives users access to offline listening, perfect for keeping up with the news on the go during your commute or at the gym.
After signing up for an account (or skipping that step if you’re so inclined), you can access a variety of articles either by popularity or by topics. The first part of the menu features the most popular articles, your own playlist, and your likes (or bookmarked articles). The second part of the menu features 6 topics (or interests): entertaining, must know, geeky, entrepreneurial, inspirational and scientific. The best place to start is to browse the popular articles. The list included posts from Forbes, Science Daily, Flavorwire, Lifehacker, The New Yorker and more.
To open up an article, simply tap on the story and it will open up, and the reading will begin straight away. Each article page is accompanied by a link to the full story, which you can open up in the app’s native browser. It will also tell you which ‘channel’ (or in other words, website) the article appears in, and makes it easy to look up more articles from that same site. Lastly, you can also easily share articles directly from Umano to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or via email. You can also add the article to your likes by hitting the like button underneath the image accompanying the article.
To add an article to your playlist, double tap the story and it will be added, making it available for offline listening. When you first access your playlist after adding articles to it, you can choose to automatically download articles for offline listening. If you choose not to automatically download articles, you can always go to the app settings at a later time to switch this option on, and to restrict downloading to WiFi connections only.
Other app settings include automatically playing the next article when listening to a channel, receiving daily reminders, and automatically sharing your likes or listens with your Facebook friends.
Now for the most important aspect of the app – listening to articles. Because the articles are read by real people, rather than relying on a robotic voice, it’s no different to listening to a podcast. It makes for easy listening, and brings the same idea of audio books to your favorite online sources, no matter what your interests happen to be. We couldn’t be happier with the way that articles are read on Umano, and appreciate the fact that the source of the article is mentioned in the intro, meaning you don’t have to worry about looking at your smartphone screen to know which site or magazine is behind the article you’re listening to.
The choice of sources on Umano are also pretty solid. The most popular sites and magazines are included, but if there’s one feature we wouldn’t mind seeing – it would be a way to search for articles or sources. It also isn’t entirely clear how articles are selected from each site.
These are, of course, minor nitpicks when it comes to the overall experience that Umano provides. The app itself is slick and intuitive, but more importantly, the listening experience is enjoyable. At this point, it’s hard to imagine what our commutes were like prior to Umano.
What do you think of Umano? Let us know in the comments.