I’ve talked about filler time before. These scarce moments in our incredibly advanced lives where there is not enough time to be productive and or to read something worthwhile. Like standing in line at Starbucks or walking to work. During long commutes you can usually listen to Audiobooks or podcasts and while that’s all well and good, there’s no good way to read/listen any content from the web. Umano fills in that gap.
Umano is available both for iPhone and Android. I tested the iPhone version but the Android app experience should be similar. There are many news reading apps out there but Umano is different. Instead of a robotic voice tailored to sound as close to a human and possible, you get actual human beings (even professionals) to read news and longform articles to you. This of course limits Umano’s reach. But it’s also a good thing. However limited, the fact that Umano is powered by human readers, means that you only get the best content from the internet to listen.
Umano’s design language is non disruptive. It follows iOS 7 design language almost by the book. The UI is made up of white background with black text and one single color that dominates all the hollow buttons and actionable content, which in this case is Orange. Once signed up, Umano will ask you to define your interests. These are highly arbitrary like Technology, Lifestyle, Design etc. Choose your interests and move on quickly. It’s the Explore menu in Umano where you really get to customize your news feed according to your interests. Channels and Articles are all listed here. Channels are publications/websites in themselves. Featured Channels is a great place to start. Here you’ll find most of the websites you visit everyday. You can also search for your favorite website from the Explore menu. When you find something you like, tap on it to get more info. This view will show statistics like Subscribers, Litens and Likes. You can subscibe to the Channel, listen to any article or add it to your playlist from here.
The experience of listening to articles in Umano is just like using any third party music app. The Now Playing screen gives you the usual play options with 2x speed and a 15 second back button. You get lockscreen and Control Center controls as well.
The Basic services in Umano are free. You can curate your own news feed by subscribing to any Channel you want. There is no limit on listening to articles as well. But if you want more advanced options like offline playback, sleep timer and most importantly playlist support, you’ll have to subscribe to Umano Premium which costs $3.99 a month or $23.99 for a year.
If all you are going to do is listen to couple of articles a day here and there, you can easily get by with the free plan. Playlist support alone justifies the cost for a premium account. Once you start subscribing to different Channels, you realise just how much great content there is to listen to. In the free account when one article completes, the next one from the same Channel starts playing. You have no control over it. If you plan on using Umano during commute or while working out, playlists support becomes a must have. And when you subscribe to Umano Premium, you are not only supporting an Ad-free network but also passionate human readers.
Umano is a news reading app for humans, by humans (quite literally). If you are in the market for an app that reads your any kind of content you want from your favorite websites, Umano is it. Umano is available for Free on the App Store and Google Play.