Siri’s rise to fame demonstrated quite clearly that people are always willing to explore newer ways of interacting with their smartphones. Many developers picked up on this vibe and added speech capabilities to their apps. You can make a case for such features in almost any kind of app, but the ability to read text aloud or converse with users is appreciated the most in news apps. However, most news apps that can read stories to you do so in a mechanical tone, with lots of missing words and inaccurate summaries. Fortunately, Winston overcomes all these shortcomings, and creates fully customizable newscasts using content from all your favorite news topics, Twitter and Facebook, read in a voice that is pleasantly human.
When you first launch Winston, it will guide you through its configuration using both written and spoken instructions. You have to select a few basic topics to get started, but you needn’t think too much about these choices for now, as you can always change them later. Once the app has familiarized you with its basic features, some content is downloaded for offline use, so make sure you have a good internet connection to ensure speedy configuration of Winston. The main page of the app displays separate tiles for all the topics you have chosen so far. There are three extra tiles that have nothing to do with the channels you have added. Two of them are for Facebook and Twitter, and there is a third ‘Briefing’ section at the top of the screen. Under Briefing, you’ll get weather details and a summary of important stories from all the topics you have added as well as your social network updates. The order of the items appearing in Briefing is determined by the arrangement of tiles, and you can alter these positions by long-pressing any area of the main screen and dragging tiles around. This helps you arrange all the items according to your priorities and their importance to you.
Winston is capable of working offline, and downloads parts of newscasts for later use. To make the app save full newscasts rather than just basic summaries, head to the settings menu and toggle on the ‘Download Full Newscasts’ option. The same menu houses options for controlling the app’s background music as well as the voice speed.
When you are listening to a newscast, Winston reads the entire story if it is from a news source. For social network updates, only an overview of the post is read. If you want to skip to the next item, simply swipe across the screen. You can pause playback using the button located in the top bar. To share the current article, hit the ‘+’ icon. It is possible to read a story in its entirety by tapping the text in the bottom bar.
Winston supports AirPlay to lets you stream newscasts to other iDevices. Presently, the app offers only a limited number of news sources, though we can hope the list keeps growing in the future. Winston is not a new release, but just it came out of beta. You can grab this iPhone-optimized app for free by heading to the following link.