If your newly-launched tablet is struggling to compete against the likes of the iPad, it’s probably a good idea to make sure that any first-party apps you release really show off its potential. RIM feels differently — at least that’s the impression I’m left with after playing around with the company’s new BlackBerry News app for the PlayBook.
News comes pre-loaded with several popular RSS feeds from traditional content providers such as AP and Reuters, as well as online favorites like Engadget and Mashable. Articles are grouped by categories: headlines, business, travel, technology, science, arts & entertainment, and sport. Wait, my bad — there’s no sports section, so you’ll have to add all that content yourself.
But there’s good news on that front — BlackBerry News lets you add items by searching for site names or URLs and you can also browse through its News Library, a collection of feeds from additional sites which didn’t warrant display when you tap a main category icon for one reason or another. Here you will find sports feeds (SI, ESPN, USA Today, etc.), but each custom subscription gets its own icon. There’s no way to group them as of yet, and more often than not BlackBerry News slaps the default RSS icon on the feed instead of a site’s favicon or logo. You can’t even tap-and-drag items on the My News page to reorganize them.
BlackBerry News does present items in a reasonably nice way, with its “virtual newspaper” layout. But when you tap through, the experience is a roll of the dice. Some items link to the article on source’s website. Some display a nice, clean RSS item in its entirety. Others load a truncated RSS item with no link to continue reading the rest of the content.