Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Mobile RSS News Reader: FreeNews

Imagine how convenient it would be to quickly scan your latest news feeds, topic radars and other RSS content while waiting in line at a store or during your daily commute.

Feed list

Now this has become reality with FreeNews, a mobile news reader recently launched for public preview. FreeNews is a Java-based application that runs right off your cell phone. According to the FreeNews product information page most current cell phone models from the major brands (Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG etc) and wireless devices like the PalmOne Treo, BlackBerry and devices running the Windows Mobile operating system are capable of running FreeNews.

These wireless devices do require that Java VM is installed and of course you need to have some kind of service that allows you to connect to the internet.

Here's what I found while getting my hands on FreeNews.



I must admit that I only possess a no-longer-that-impressive Nokia 6100.

It's just a good-quality cell phone that allows me to connect to WAP-enabled web sites--apparently sufficient to get FreeNews running. In fact, it took me just a few minutes to sign up for the service, activate my account, download and install the Java applet and retrieve the first default feeds displayed on my phone. Feed management is provided through a regular web browser and may to some extent even be performed from the FreeNews interface on your cell phone.

Details from a feed

Highlights of the FreeNews feature set are:

  • Add any existing RSS or Atom feed (RSS 0.9, 0.91., 0.92, 1.0 and 2.0)

  • Adding an existing feed

  • Import feeds from existing feed readers through OPML

  • Export feeds (also through OPML)

  • Search for existing feeds by keyword in a 50,000 feed base

  • Custom, keyword-based news feeds, pulled from Yahoo! News

  • Company information feeds based on stock symbols

  • Local weather forecast feeds

  • (Sub)Categorize feeds according to your own criteria

  • Creating categories in FreeNews

  • Email articles to nick-named friends

  • Personalize display settings, such as:

    • Choose between subcategories view, categories view, feeds view or articles view

    • Select text size (small, medium or large)

    • Change skin theme (five different themes)

    • Change new-item indicator (icon, bold or red)

    • Adjust options for display split, wrapping, read status and page scrolling

  • Text compression of up to 50%

  • Speed gain through cache-ahead service on the FreeNews server

After sign-up your account needs to be activated through a link in a confirmation email message. The FreeNews application is automatically installed on your cell phone when you open FreeNews only needs a small footprint of 57kB of memory on your cell phone. Its menu location depends on the make and model of the phone (see the product FAQ). On my Nokia I found FreeNews was put under the Applications menu.
FreeRange Inc has announced that an SMS feature will soon be added and the company is investigating options to enhance the feed management capabilities of the FreeNews phone application.

FreeNews is the first product of FreeRange Communications Inc, a privately owned company based in Portland, OR. The company was founded by Jon Maroney, who previously worked as director of marketing at Extensis (Suitcase and Portfolio products) and Dantz (Retrospect product), and by David Boyd.

To Be Improved

  • Add a clear statement about the FreeNews business model.

  • Find a catchier, less common and ambiguous name for the product.

  • Be clear about sources, coverage and timeliness of the custom news feeds and of the feed directory.

  • Add the option to temporarily disable a feed

  • Offer an uncategorized (alphabetical) list of feeds

  • Add option to update only one particular feed, instead of the whole list

Quick Facts
Product information:

Current version: 0.2.0

Operating Environment: Java enabled WAP phones and wireless devices capable of running Java VM.

Support Options: FAQ; Known Issues; Customer Forum (update announcements, bug submissions, feedback)

Download: free trial sign-up form

Expected pricing from the 1.0 release: USD 20-25.

Selection Of Other Mobile RSS Readers
RSS Reader MIDlet by Gösta Jonasson (released under GPL; latest version 0.37, Oct. 2004)

My Yahoo! Mobile RSS (announced March, 2005; do read the comments section)

LiteFeeds (online reader and mobile/wireless RSS reader; in beta; blog)

49PM Mobile Photo NewsFeed Reader (this one does Flickr streams; introduced Feb 21, 2005; Price USD 7.95; promising)

Readers' Comments    
2005-12-21 06:53:53


Nice site, you can call in and listen to rss via vxml.
The site is ugly but the service is interesting.
There is an issue with time outs but the 1 800 number compensates a little.

2005-09-25 04:58:18

Don't forget free online RSS to WML convertor: or

2005-04-28 07:13:32

Mark Fletcher

Don't forget Bloglines. We've had a mobile version for over a year. It autodetects many mobile browsers, or you can go directly to

2005-04-28 06:07:42

John Roberts

Don't forget the CNET Mobile Feed Reader.

posted by Marjolein Hoekstra on Tuesday, April 19 2005, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.




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