BlinkFeed on the HTC One

It's one of the more controversial moves a smartphone manufacturer has made in recent memory. HTC has pared down the out-of-box home screen experience, instead going with a single traditional Android panel, while opening up a world of news, updates and features, that's just a single swipe away.

This is BlinkFeed.

You could say BlinkFeed looks a lot like Flipboard -- and you'd be right. The slight difference in animations notwithstanding, what you've got is an extremely capable (if a bit limited in scope) feed reader. News, social networking updates, the ability to post your status -- it's all right there.

So why's it controversial? Unlike apps like Pulse or Flipboard or even Google Currents, which are traditional applications, BlinkFeed is baked into the phone itself, as much a part of the home screen as the home screen itself. It's there, whether you plan on using it or not.


Join the discussion in the HTC One forums


Setting up BlnkFeed takes just a few seconds. When you first get the phone, you'll see some dummy boxes inviting you to "get the latest news that matters" to you or to "connect and share with people from all your social networks." Tap one of the blue boxes to start the setup process.


The user interface is plain and simple. Choose your feeds, choose your categories, and you're up and running.

The feeds provided by Mobiles Republic run the gamut, but you do have a finite pool from which to chose. And, in this current form, you can't add your own feeds. What you see is what you get. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. The intention of BlinkFeed is to provide light "snacking" of information, not three-course meals. Like other graphical feed readers, it's so heavy with eye candy that hard-core news junkies will feel like they can't keep up.

So in the case of BlinkFeed, less may be more. It'll take some tweaking on the user's part (that's you) to get things dialed in.

Stories open within BlinkFeed. From there you can share them through the usual Android intents. Scroll to the bottom of a story and you'll find a link to open it in your browser. There's also an option to change font sizes. 

(Pro tip: When you're scrolling down through BlinkFeed, tap the notification bar at the top of the screen to hop back to the top. - Thanks, Shen Ye!)

BlinkFeed and Twitter, Facebook and more

Where it can be pretty powerful for more casual users is with social networking. If Facebook's your thing, just add your account, and flip on over to see what your friends are up to. Tapping an update opens the full Facebook app. Or, you can post a status update right from the BlinkFeed home screen.

The social services BlinkFeed currently can tap into are: Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and Twitter. It also can call from your calendar, HTC's new Zoe Share (for moving images), Kid Mode and TV (remember that the HTC One can serve as an infrared remote control).

Do I have to use BlinkFeed?

What if you don't want to use BlinkFeed? That's easy. Don't use it. (Watch: How to use the HTC One without BlinkFeed.) Some folks are all up in arms over it being a permanent home screen fixture instead of a killable widget. That's a valid concern, but it's also short-lived. It's absolutely possible to use the HTC One like a "normal" Android phone without BlinkFeed being in the way.

The bottom line

BlinkFeed is an interesting proposition. Smartphone nerds (at least the ones afraid of trying anything new) will hate the idea. But for "normal" users, it makes sense. My parents use Android smartphones. They've barely touched the things after two years. But set up BlinkFeed, and suddenly they've got a home screen full of new, regularly updating content. That's who BlinkFeed is for.

For the rest of us, it's a fun, relatively unobtrusive option that deserves tinkering with. The key will be finding the right feeds, perfect for snacking.