iPhone/iPad App Shootout: iReddit vs. Alien Blue vs. Safari

The social news website Reddit has been around since 2006, but it’s only in the last year that it has exploded in popularity. For those who don’t know, Reddit.com is a website built around hundreds of smaller sections dedicated to particular subjects. These sections, known as ‘Subreddits,’ contain user-submitted content – links, self-generated posts, pictures and so on – on which Reddit users comment and depending on their reaction to the post, either up-vote or down-vote it accordingly.

Popular articles that have been up-voted and commented on appear on Reddit‘s front page, which essentially becomes a continuously morphing catalogue of what’s hot on the Internet at that particular moment. To the casual observer, this can be rather confusing, and will often contain nothing of interest. So to discover the joy of Reddit it’s essential to have an account and subscribe to the subreddits that interest you personally. This way you build your own, personalised front page filled with (in theory) quality content from around the web.

Don’t think you won’t find anything of interest either, as there really is a subreddit for everything you can imagine. A fan of pickles? You’ll want to subscribe to r/pickles then. Love [insert game name here]? No problem, you’ll be well catered for too. Want to lose weight or learn to knit?  Then r/fitness and r/knitit should fit the bill perfectly.

In addition to all the silliness, there’s plenty of seriousness too, with subreddits on mainstream interests such as politics, movies and music, almost every profession and lots of opportunity to discuss your religious beliefs. Content of the more adult variety can be found too, but on Reddit, the P-word doesn’t always mean naked people, for example r/cityporn and r/skyporn often contain astonishing pictures of their respective subjects.

Anyway, now we’ve convinced you to give Reddit a try – or reminded you why you visit – how can you browse the site away from your PC? On the iPhone and the iPad, there are three primary methods you can use: The iReddit app, a third-part app named Alien Blue or just stick to good old Safari. But which is best?

iReddit

Produced by Conde Nast Digital, the part-owners of Reddit, iReddit is the site’s official application, and is both free to download and universal for the iPhone and the iPad.

It’s a very simple, very friendly way to get to know Reddit. Once you’ve created an account online, upon entering your details in the app your front page is populated with the subreddits to which you’re subscribed.

All the content is then jumbled up together and viewed in a long, automatically updating list. Tapping a post opens the picture or link, and the comments can be accessed from there. Votes can be cast, posts saved or shared and comments added, just like using the standard website. There’s even a shake feature to that opens up a random post to help you discover new content.

If you’re new to Reddit, and want to read the content without getting too involved, iReddit is a great choice of app. There’s almost no clutter, it’s fast and flipping through posts is quick and painless. If however, you want to get deeper into Reddit and start exploring the many links embedded into the comments, the app’s navigation system lets it down – often making it feel like a web browser without the option of opening tabs.

Oddly, while the iPad version never has a problem syncing accounts, iReddit on the iPhone only sometimes shows my subscription lists, despite the account details being identical. Otherwise, it’s hard not to recommend it, as for the average Reddit reader, it does everything one could want and costs absolutely nothing.

Alien Blue/Alien Blue HD

But what if you’re a dedicated Redditor and want a more powerful client to dig deep into Reddit‘s glory, all using an interface that’s more akin to the web than iReddit? You’ll want Alien Blue, which is free for the iPhone with the option of a £0.69 upgrade, and a straight £2.49 for the HD iPad version.

If you’re going to be browsing on the iPhone, Alien Blue is the clear winner over iReddit, with a very clean and easy-on-the-eye interface, adjustable colour schemes and super-fast performance. It’s leaps and bounds over the official app in its free form, and the Pro upgrade adds some great features such as the attractive picture gallery that comes included in the HD iPad version.

The iPad app is slightly less successful than its iPhone counterpart, and although it has all the same features – plus many more than iReddit – and feels more ‘complete’, it’s never quite as intuitive to zip through posts as it is on the iPad edition of iReddit. Fiddling about in the options menu is also frustrating, and the icons are all spread too far and wide over the screen. It’s all just a bit confused.

That said, once you try Alien Blue HD and go back to iReddit for a while, the step back in terms of features and the level of customisation is very noticeable, so if you’re a serious Reddit user, then it’s worth spending the money on the app.

Safari

Secret option number three is Safari, as after all, Reddit is a standard website and therefore designed to be viewed in a web browser. Guess what? It works perfectly, so for old hands who’re used to the site’s foibles will feel right at home, however new Redditors who’re established iOS users may still prefer a dedicated app.

It is free, and there’s never any problems with signing into accounts or digging around trying to find a way to turn off the voting options (as with Alien Blue HD), and unlike iReddit, almost never crashes.

Conclusion

There are three clear stages here. Stage one is the beginner who’s new to the iPhone/iPad, and either kind of likes Reddit, or has become used to the web format. They should go with Safari.

Next is stage two, someone who is familiar with iOS and with Reddit, visits everyday and has subscribed to a few subreddits. For these folk, on the iPhone it’s Alien Blue and on the iPad, iReddit that are the best options.

Finally it’s stage three. You comment, submit, laugh at the memes and know all the in-jokes. You own both an iPhone and an iPad, and want 24-hour access to Reddit, just in case you miss an AMA by Richard Dawkins/Stephen Colbert/Kayden Kross (delete as appropriate, or not as the case may be). For you, both Alien Blue and Alien Blue HD are the obvious choices, but you’ll also want to have iReddit too.

That’s it, and don’t forget to be generous with the karma!

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