Rockmelt for iPhone is a recent extension of the social networking browser. The app can be described as Safari meets Flipboard. It looks very different from its desktop alternative but basically does the same thing. You log in to the application with your Facebook account (seems like a ubiquitous function of content gathering apps these days) and you either use the application as a browser or go through its list of 'popular' feeds and create your own list from that.
The list has a total of 54 major sites and blogs, divided into categories like News, Humour, Popular, Fashion, Entertainment, Food, Sports and Technology. You can choose to follow as many feeds from that list as you like. Furthermore, you can choose to view some articles later. If you have the Rockmelt desktop app, your bookmarks from the desktop app will automatically sync to the iPhone app.
The design of the app is pretty simple. The main page has a setting tab and a Facebook sharing tab in the top bar. Below that you have the spot to add a URL you can either choose to search on the web or go to the URL itself. You then have the View Later and Bookmark tabs and finally your feeds. With emphasis on the social networking and content sharing features of this browser app, it's quite easy to miss its browser functionality especially in the layout. When you browse a website, the browser functions actually move to the bottom of the screen so initially, when you want to go to the previous page in the browser, it's quite likely you're going to hit "back" up top which will actually take you to the browser's main page.
The Rockmelt homescreen and adding feeds view
The main obvious feature of this app is of course its content aggregation. Second to that is how big a place Facebook has in this app. Your feeds automatically have Facebook news and Facebook notifications built in to your follow list. You can update your Facebook from within the app and share content as well. Also, as mentioned earlier, you can't use the app unless you log in with your Facebook information. The number of feeds are currently a littlelimited based on what's out there.
However, unlimited following is a feature I like that separates this app from Flipboard, which only allows you to follow 9 news sources. The other nice thing about the app is that you can potentially get your Twitter feed within the app itself. However, it currently has a bug or something because even though it asks you for your Twitter password, it doesn't let you enter it. The app description says you can update your twitter, reply to and retweet tweets within the app.
Another interesting feature of the app is when you are within a page of one of your feeds, there are actually three tabs at the bottom. One is to open the page in Safari and add a bookmark. The next is to read later and of course, the third is to share it on Facebook.
The Browser function on the left. Page on the right with View Later tab pushed
The browsing feature is a little annoying. For one, the browser doesn't remember addresses so if you're checking email via webmail and you have a long URL you're going to have to type it out every time. Also, when you accidentally hit the wrong 'back' button and it takes you back to the Rockmelt homescreen, there's no way to undo it. You have to go through the whole process of typing in the URL and browsing till you get to the page you want. It's also annoying that the default function of going to a URL is a web search and not just going to the
site itself. The good thing though is the three features mentioned above (bookmark, read later and share on Facebook) are available when you visit pages within the browser, so long email URL retypes can be avoided. Documents, PDFs and images attached in emails can be viewed within the app.
Overall, we rate the app 8.5 out of 10. Points were cut for how annoying the browser function is when the app is supposed to be a browser and also for the current Twitter bug. However, it's a good way to keep up with news and updates from the iPhone itself, and it's a convenient one stop shop for your social networking as well as content aggregation. The choice and variety of content is a little limited as compared to an app like say, Zite, but can be expanded when you add Google news as a feed. This is a nice stay in touch with the news app for those who don't have iPads and would like to access content via their iPhones. The app does, however, work on the iPad.
Rockmelt is available for free from the App Store and requires iOS 4.0 or later. You need to be a minimum age of 17 years to use the app.