How to use BlinkFeed on the HTC One

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Unlock the HTC One for the first time and you’ll be confronted by something which may be surprising; HTC BlinkFeed, the Taiwanese manufacturer’s bold move with the homescreen of its flagship handset.

That first page is now dominated by a series of tiles that appear in a grid-like interface and pull news and social network updates right through to the front of your smartphone. Looking a little like a Windows Phone homescreen, BlinkFeed is a lively and attractive addition to the Android software.

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BlinkFeed is a bit like having news feed app Flipboard open all of the time and sitting right there on your homescreen. It presents a grid of tiles that scrolls up and down and displays updates from a variety of news providers along with your social network feeds. BlinkFeed refreshes itself automatically and can be configured to do this over any data connection or just over Wi-Fi, in order to save on mobile data costs.

Choosing the sources from which news is pulled is easy; a short downwards swipe on the homescreen reveals a menu bar from which these can be selected. There are some big names in there too, with The Guardian topping the list and ReutersCNet and TechCrunch featuring prominently amongst others, but it isn’t just specific sources that have to choose from. A variety of topics are also optional, with BlinkFeed pulling random articles on subjects such as gaming and sports through if you wish.

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Here we found a downside with BlinkFeed when compared to other news aggregator apps. While there are a good number of sources, there is a limit to them, whereas the likes of  Flipboard can be directed towards specific sources. Small, niche blogs can be viewed in Flipboard but not in BlinkFeed.

As mentioned, BlinkFeed can also connect to social networks and these can be selected from the same menu that you use to choose news sources. Major networks such as FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn are all supported, as is Flickr. From the same menu you can choose to have calendar entries and photos from your device shown in BlinkFeed.

Once set up, the default display for BlinkFeed is to show what are known as ‘highlights’, a selection of content from all of your connected sources. The highlights section can itself be configured so that only certain content shows up, such as that from The Guardian or your Facebook account.

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Beyond the highlights, content can be filtered so that only that from certain sources is shown, with configuration again being executed from that drop-down bar. Each source you have connected can be selected as the sole provider of content and BlinkFeed will refresh itself to just show updates from that source. Selecting CNET will bring up a whole BlinkFeed screen containing nothing but articles from the tech website.

There are other functions housed in the drop-down bar too, with content being searchable by tapping the magnifying glass symbol. Type in a search term and BlinkFeed will root through all of its content to find whatever is relevant.

Searching is also specific to whichever source is displayed on the main BlinkFeed screen at that time. For example, if you have filtered your content to just show articles from CNET then searching will only bring up results form that site. This is great if want to look up an article you saw from a particular publication earlier but don’t want to have to root through reams of content.

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The final function to be controlled from the drop bar allows you to post to social networks directly from the homescreen of your device. This is something that could be particularly useful to heavy Twitter users, allowing the posting of  updates to be achieved very quickly indeed.

The only drawback in using this is that BlinkFeed doesn’t have any direct way of dealing with notifications from social networks, they simply appear in the feed along with any other content and could easily get lost amongst it all. However, with the HTC One being an Android handset there is the usual notifications bar that will keep you up to date with all your communications.

Users who may like the look of the HTC One but don’t fancy having BlinkFeed on all the time needn’t worry though. While you can’t actually turn it off, you can change the handset’s default homescreen to another screen that will shows icons and widgets just as any other Android homescreen does.

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Anyone who may be concerned about the drain on processing power that BlinkFeed could present has another option in simply disconnecting all the feeds that come into it. This will cause a blank screen to be displayed, which may not look very attractive but will be less demanding on processing resource.

Overall, BlinkFeed is a radical departure by HTC that constitutes quite a shift in terms of re-skinning the Android Jelly Bean software. It makes a striking impression and is certainly useful while also bringing the handset’s homescreen to life in a way that no other Android device does. HTC’s innovative move has, in our eyes, been successful,and while BlinkFeed does have a few limitations it is a great looking feature that makes the HTC One an attractive prospect indeed.

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