News to go... This new app has my attention.


By Larry Velez

I prefer listening to news articles and found a new app called Umano – it lets me keep my eye on the road and my hands free to shift through the gears. With Umano, I can start playing articles on a particular channel and not have to touch my phone again until I am at my destination. Very useful. While at my daughter’s gymnastics class, I can watch how well the latest flip is progressing instead of having to stare down at my Kindle.

Umano launched a few months ago on the iPhone, and earlier this month it was made available to Android users on versions from 2.2 and up. The app, developed by SoThree, is a good execution at something people have tried many times before, and the use of real actors reading the articles makes it a much more pleasant experience than Kindle's robot voice. The content is the same in both versions of the app, with about 20 articles selected each day by the Umano team divided into six categories: Entertaining, Must Know, Geeky, Entrepreneurial, Inspirational, and Scientific. Umano also has a download function to allow for offline listening.

This app is getting quite a bit of attention. PBS Mindshift listed it as one of The 10 Most Disruptive News Apps 2012 (12/28/12) stating that "it has the advantage of a wide selection of online content, which its editorial team then curates into an assortment of essential knowledge pieces, daily news items that might be overlooked elsewhere, and the simply entertaining. Most news apps at this point are providing an experience that is as effective as possible in bombarding the reader with as much content as possible, but Umano seems better geared for those who are looking for a more passive experience, with little need to swipe controls around."  

We are starting to see a trend toward consuming media in different formats depending on where we are and what is most convenient for the task at hand. The companies who execute this the best will let you start an article or book on your desktop, transition to the subway on an e-reader, play it on a Bluetooth headphones while at the gym – all while not losing track of exactly what word you were up to. This is a new class of app and a new way to think of content. We already see websites morphing into different forms depending on the device consuming them. Going forward every article/news story/book/text might be produced in a way that it morphs into many different formats from 60" 4K TVs, to e-ink readers, to audio, to iPhone-sized video. I think we will see an explosion of Bluetooth-enabled speakers everywhere we go, the car, the beach, headphones, etc.  Now that we are well into a mobile world, everything around us will now become wireless accessories to our main devices: a mobile device, a workstation/laptop, and our TVs and the content will seamlessly stream and sync onto and between all these devices.


Umano is a good example of developers responding to this trend to make data available wherever we are and in the format most accessible to us at the time...whether it's commuting to work or watching backflips!