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App Review: Audio Headlines
by Sharon L Copeland on Tuesday, Jul 24, 2012

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Fifty or sixty years ago, when we didn’t have tablets or social media dictating the speed and accuracy of the news and what was important to you, you got dressed and headed to the store to pick up a newspaper (or if you were smart, you had one delivered to you ever morning). For those under the age of forty, it’s that big stack of folded paper that your mom bought to clip coupons. it was loaded with pertinent information about world news, weather, and just sport score you could imagine, plus those you couldn't when the paper needed a few more column-inches filled out.

The best thing about technology these days not only does it inform us in the blink of an eye, it actually helps people with disabilites of all sorts. We've all heard how tablets and smartphones are helping those with cognitive and communications disabilites, but for being very much vision-based, smartphone and tablet technology is making a surprising jump into the vision-impaired space too. What's proven to be the most useful for the vision-impaired is also useful to the average citizen: text-to-speech. With Audio Headlines on the TouchPad we get the very latest latest news headlines delivered as spoken word. Sure, text-to-speech isn't a new technology, but we're still pleased any time we see a good application of it.

Upon first launch, Audio Headlines offers up a pre-selected set of news feeds from which it can read, though you can remove those you find uninteresting and add your own. Audio Headlines also supports Twitter, just give it a Twitter user or search term and it will read out the posts from that account. It won't read your entire Twitter stream out loud, but we all know there are a handful of accounts you're more interested in anyway.

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Once you've got everything set how you want it, the main Audio Headlines interface is a mix of dark grays and blacks with white text and  blue buttons that say "Start Reading!" over columns of headlines and tweets. Tap that and Audio Headlines does that, it starts reading the headlines out loud. And just the headlines, despite our wishes that it read more than just the headlines it doesn't delve deeper into your RSS feed to find the text of the article. But having an overview of what's going on isn't a bad thing.

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Audio Headlines includes the standard set of sharing mechanisms for the headlines and Tweets, including over email or using the Messaging app. You can also take a headline and open it up in the defautl browser or Advanced Browser (Science Apps, the developer of Audio Headlines also built the webOS app builder).

Reading-wise, Audio Headlines allows you to select different languages for your feeds, and we're not going to lie, hearing it in French was fun, if not completely incomprehensible. The voice used is a pretty robotic generic female, nothing special, and certainly no Siri.

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As pointed out earlier, our primary pain point with Audio Headlines is that the app doesn't read the articles themselves, just the headlines. That, coupled with reading of our actual Twitter feed could make the app into a must-have for us. But alas, it doesn't support those features, but it's free, so what do we care? Whether reading is difficult for you, or you just prefer to get your news in spoken nuggets while your eyes are occupied elsewhere, Audio Headlines is the app for you.