If you are at all familiar with iOS, you will know that Reddit applications are pretty sparse within the ecosystem. This could either be due to the fact that the API availability for iOS is pretty thin compared to the competition OS Android, or the fact that Alien Blue has been king since day 1 and developers felt no need to compete with it.
People familiar with Android will know an application called Sync for Reddit (Formerly known as Reddit Sync). The app is known for its dashing good looks and overall ingenious user experience. The developer, jdawson, has released a beta for the iOS version of this application. Does it have any chance of knocking Alien Blue off of the top spot? Let’s have a quick look.
A Little About Alien Blue
Alien Blue is an application created by Jase Morrissey and was one of the first Reddit applications to hit the iOS stratosphere. The application has flourished over the years of development, adding unique features and follows Apple’s design guidelines beautifully, unleashing the full potential that most conventional apps on iOS sometimes fail to do. Jase had been working with the Reddit team for a little over a couple of years, liaising with them about any changes to their website, and overall advice on how it should look and work without infringing or breaking any rules Reddit may have.
In October 2014, Reddit officially acquired the Alien Blue app and was given Reddit’s official stamp of approval, making it the ‘official’ Reddit application for iOS. This was either an easier way out for Reddit, since they are making an application from the ground up for Android – or they didn’t feel the need to create a brand new application due to Alien Blue’s dominating success on the App Store. Since Reddit had been working with the developer over a year or two before the acquisition, it may have been in the pipeline for quite a while.
A major part of Sync for Reddit’s success is its use of the ‘Material Design’ standards for Android and the way it pushed the envelope for everything that standard really stood for. You’re probably wondering how the developer, ljdawson, could ever manage to merge the unique and very well acquainted look of Sync for Reddit on Android over to the iOS ecosystem. ljdawson mentioned in the initial Alpha testing Reddit post that the iOS app will take inspiration from the Android look, while keeping to Apple’s strict guidelines on user interface design.
The app itself, for the time being, is very barebones. One thing that can be seen from the abundance of screenshots shown in the gallery above is the fact that the UI is very familiar to its Android counterpart, which the developer was going for. If we take a look at the frontpage, for example, it takes many elements of the material design language such as the ‘material blue’ colour scheme and applied it to the status bar. One other thing which can’t be mistaken is the singular posts in the subreddit page are paying homage to the Android version, with multiple elements of material design really flourishing in the iOS ecosystem – the thinly bordered shadows effects around each post, as well as the post details, are really second to none when it comes to any Reddit app on both of the major operating systems. From the post details to the overall layout of the subreddits, ljdawson is on the right track to making a near-perfect port of this wondrous app.
As much as a unique user interface is warranted for an app to really plume in its respected ecosystem, the user experience is just as important. The right amount of function, along with form is required to get the application shining like no other.
To comply in accordance the Apple’s guidelines, ljdawson has added the baseline features for any basic iOS application out there. Sharing menus, bottom navigation buttons, settings menu layouts etc. One thing I have always loved from using Sync for Reddit on Android was the post view layouts, and how the comments section really stood out as a focal point. I’m glad to say that this stays the same during the port of the iOS application. The way the comments section in Sync for Reddit works is a ‘category-like’ system to make comment threads easier to follow and, more importantly, easy on the eye. The below screenshot is a prime example of this in action.
Sync for Reddit on iOS also supports Apple’s ‘3D Touch’ technology, meaning if you force touch the icon on your home screen, it brings up a separate interface menu with a ‘View subreddit’ option.
As you can see, comments are separated by a different colour preceding each other for a really intuitive and ingenious way to read through a comment section without getting too flustered and forgetting where you are. You can also see in the above screenshot provided that the usual culprits for the summary and main event of the Reddit post in the Android application have made an appearance in the iOS application, too. The well-known up vote, down vote, favourite, hide post, and more options are there, although the favourite & hide post features have yet to be implemented. It does show good signs that the features that made the Android app great are making a well-deserved cameo appearance.
The application also has 3 buttons at the bottom for navigation into different ‘sections’: Subreddit, Profile, Settings. These options do exactly as they say.
Subreddit – Provides ease of access to your favourite/subscribed subreddits as well as having a ‘manually enter subreddit’ option at the top right-hand corner.
Profile – This enables you to add multiple Reddit accounts, as well as showing a brief overview of your current Karma. The account you’re currently logged into is indicated by a green tick.
Settings – Takes you to the settings menu, which, as I’m writing this (using version 0.1 beta 10), has a General, Appearance & About section to the menu.
Speaking of settings, not a lot of features are in there yet, but the developer has said multiple times that the overall majority of the features from the Android version will make it onto iOS as soon as he can implement them. A night theme (which is currently in an experimental phase) has also been provided, which also shares the same layout and colour scheme that the Android application shares. The night theme is my personal favourite from the Android application, so it’s nice to see this in there – also nice to see the ‘material dark’ colours making an appearance in a deeper grey territory.
The ‘general’ part of the settings menu currently has 3 options to choose from:
-Sort subreddits automatically (when switching accounts)
-Always show scores (Disables [score hidden] in comments)
-Always show NSFW content (Disables the NSFW overlay)
Options for the general menu are scarce for the time being, but the current options there aren’t to be overlooked since these 3 options have been in the Android counterpart since the beginning.
Another feature which the majority of the Reddit apps have is the ability to swipe left to reveal the subreddit’s information and FAQs. The feature currently only has an option to ‘unsubscribe’ from the subreddit, as well as showing the information itself in the interface just below it.
Sync for Reddit is an all-time favourite Reddit application of mine. The stunning user interface, to the vast user experience, is astronomical and really well thought out. The iOS application still has a long way to go, but the characteristics of the Android version are already there, while not dampening the whole iOS app experience which Apple are so strict about keeping consistent. Ljdawson took this into consideration and never made this about the Android ecosystem and design language being better. It was about giving the loyal users to this app the best of both worlds experience and broadening the horizons to places other than Android.
While the app may be sparse in features for the time being, I still use the application on a daily basis for my Redditing needs – and if ljdawson keeps it up, it will be in close contention to Alien Blue’s top spot for best Reddit app on iOS.
Sync for Reddit on iOS is currently in a closed Alpha stage. I will update this post when the application opens up to the public for testing.
Big thanks to ljdawson for providing me access to this application for review.