Some folks responded to the news that Google shuts down Reader with the announcement of what seems to be decent replacements for Google Reader1 and Reader’s demise seems to have also spurred efforts into giving some love to the iPad as a platform for reading RSS feeds served by Fever.
On April 25, within less that 12 hours I got notice of two native iPad clients for Fever being released:
- Sunstroke 1.4.0 went universal. I have already used it as my favorite Fever client on the iPhone for some time and I was happy to see that it was now also available on the iPad.
- Ashes 1.0 “rose from the ashes”. As I mentioned in my previous article, I have found traces of it on the Web earlier but the app seemed to have been gone for good. Out of what seemed thin air to me, the developer, James Finley, contacted me on Twitter to announce the rebirth of Ashes:
@honekamp just found your Fever on iPad article and wanted to let you know that Ashes is reborn and being released very soon!— Ashes (@ashesapp) April 23, 2013
What can I say, I could not help feeling my leg being pulled by the coincidence of two Fever clients for iPad becoming available in such a short period of time after all the time looking forward to some support for Fever reading on iPad.
The UI of Sunstroke has undergone very few changes as the app went universal. What works very well for me on the iPhone is acceptable on the iPad but I feel that there is some room for improvement. Apparently, the developer of Sunstroke agrees:
Design is tough. The next version of Sunstroke will be much improved, but don’t expect it for a few more weeks.— Gone East LLC (@gone_east) May 14, 2013
Also, I came across weird encoding issues with German Umlauts in my feeds. This happens twice and it only happened when using Sunstroke. I contacted the developer, Anthony Drendel, and he attributed the issue to a bug within Fever. According to his explanation, Fever would send a whole batch of articles with the wrong encoding if one of the articles within the batch was badly encode by its site.
Apart from the encoding flukes I experienced some crashes of Sunstroke but the rate was within acceptable limits and while I prefer an app not to crash I understand that the amount of changes done under the hood to make the app universal is not reflected by the seemingly identical appearance of Sunstroke on iPhone and iPad. Come time, come fix.
Anyway, the top entry in wish-list for the next versions of Sunstroke is, as mentioned before, already acknowledged by the developer and I am looking forward to what comes next.
The visual appearance of Ashes differs dramatically from the “battleship-grey” sported by Sunstroke. Ashes features a bright orange for many UI elements and comes with an app icon that very likely sparks some controversy among the user base.
The visual design is clearly signaling that the developer has his own opinion about UI styling and if this differs from the preferences of the mass market, so be it. Fever itself is similarly opinionated and operates in a niche market, why should the developer of a client feel discouraged to bring in some fresh ideas?
At first, Ashes 1.0 fell short of my expectations and I am probably not the only one. The app did not come with the ability to trigger a refresh on the server and the UI lag was maddening. Admittedly, there are some apps out there that show a slight tendency to lag while scrolling but Fever was just off the charts.
I contacted the developer and he promised that the next version would be a lot better in this regard and soon after the initial release, he delivered. Version 1.1 was released on May 6, and it was a huge improvement over the previous release.
I still have some issues with the current release, namely I’ve got the impression that Ashes fails to download the full range of available articles after it refreshes the server. I ran some experiments where I installed Ashes on both an iPad and an iPhone, brought the number of unread articles in my Fever installation down to 02 and then started Ashes on one of the devices.
After some time Ashes will come back with a number of unread articles. Then, I would quit Ashes on the device and launch it on the other device. Guess what, the second device would always come back with a higher number of unread articles independently of whether I used the iPad for the first or the second stint.
This effect may have several causes, it may be a bug within Ashes, but it may also be attributable to Fever itself, i.e. a timeout may occur caused by a slow refresh on the server. The timeout may lead to Fever sending a smaller batch of articles to the client.
Interestingly, I could not reproduce this effect on either Safari or Sunstroke, so maybe it is attributable to Ashes.
At the moment, I take Ashes as my preferred client for reading my RSS feeds on the iPad. Sunstroke is a close contender and, come the UI overhaul, I would not mind changing my preference, or maybe switch back and forth between the two apps. Overall, it is great to see two apps under active development that address such a niche market.
My thanks to James Finley and Anthony Drendel for providing me with choice. Their work allows me to scratch an itch that was bothering me for some time now. To put things into perspective, the itch was as bothersome that I started considering the development of my own client (admittedly knowing perfectly well that I would never be able to spare the time to come up with a result worth mentionable).