Wavii Comes Into Its Own on the iPhone

The unique service which turns everything into Facebook-like status updates has a nice (albeit busy) new iPhone app.

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Back in April, I wrote about Wavii, a Seattle startup which had created technology to organize news into brief, Facebook-like status updates. It was a fascinating way to keep tabs on the news — an alternative to something like an RSS reader or Flipboard — with an entirely different approach.

Wavii offered a basic iPhone app, but it was mostly designed to be consumed in a conventional web browser on a PC or Mac. However, once real people started using the service, founder and CEO Adrian Aoun told me the company discovered that the folks using the iPhone app were more engaged than those who visited in a browser. That had a certain logic to it: Wavii was all about compressing news down to its essence, a terseness which lent itself well to a smartphone-sized screen.

So when the company sat down to build a second-generation version of Wavii, it decided to focus on its mobile incarnation. It’s launched an all-new iPhone app which shares the overarching concept of the original web-focused version, but revises lots of the details.

As before, Wavii scours the web, finds news, and summarizes it, with links to full articles from an array of sources. The summaries read like this:

  • Microsoft is preparing its next-generation Microsoft Windows client, code-named Windows Blue
  • Cate Blanchett being considered fora role in Cinderella remake from Disney
  • Apple will release iPhone 5 in December 14 in China
  • Kim Jong-un and Mohamed Morsi are leading TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year” poll

But while the original Wavii presented these updates in an extremely Facebook-like presentation, the new app aims for something richer and more browsable. You follow topics, much as you’d follow people on Facebook, but you can also browse updates in six overarching sections: Popular, Technology, Entertainment, Politics, Business and World.

With any update, you can tap on an item (such as Microsoft or Microsoft Windows or Cate Blanchett or TIME Magazine) to find more items that relate to it, and can follow any of these topics so they show up in your feed henceforth. (You could do that in the earlier version, too, but the new one understands and organizes 10 times more topics than before.) A side-scrolling interface lets you scroll through stories from multiple sources relating to a status update.

Wavii’s social features let you react to updates using Path-style emoticons symbolizing happiness, surprise, unhappiness, love and skepticism, and an offbeat new feature lets you cycle through canned textual responses such as “ROTFLOL,” “$100 that nobody remembers this next year” and “I could do that in my sleep.” (You can, of course, also enter your own comments.) As before, you can follow other users, then browse through their activities to find other topics and people to follow.

Wavii’s new look is original, but I find it a tad cluttered: It crams a lot of text, images and other elements onto the iPhone screen, and places everything on a cutesy wood-grain background which adds to the sensory overload. The next time that the company gives the app a makeover, I hope it retains all the new features but streamlines the presentation at least a bit. Still, I’m having fun with it even now.

At the moment, the web-based version of Wavii hasn’t changed much. Aoun told me that the company is working on an iPad edition which will serve as the basis of the next-generation browser version. An Android app is also in the works.