By: Jacob Fisher
Reddit, the self proclaimed “front page of the internet” and one of the most popular sites in the US (ranked 4th most popular in the United States and 8th most popular globally) has spawned many apps that make it easier to browse on mobile.
The app that I have been using for the past five months is Narwhal, a simple customizable gesture-based Reddit browser for iOS. At first glance, Narwhal may appear ugly and primitive with the only apparent controls being a plus symbol, a mail icon, and a menu button. Tapping the menu button gives you the option to view the front page, a list of popular subreddits, options to search for subreddits and users, and a list of every subreddit you are subscribed to. Also included in this menu is an option to configure the app to your pleasing, including options to toggle to? night mode, change text size, alter the font, and enable notifications. In the advanced settings menu, you can change the app icon, add a password, as well as lots of other options.
The browsing experience is simple, with each post flowing into the next seamlessly. Each post is comprised of the post’s title on the left and the amount of karma on the right, with the age of the post below. Below that is the post’s content, with the name of the sub, the site that the content is from, and the poster’s username below the content. Tapping on a post will either enlarge an image or reveal the text, depending on what kind of post it is. When viewing a post, the post’s content will consume the top half of the screen, and the comments will take up the bottom half of the screen.
Narwhal is full of neat little features, such as every so often when you are browsing, giving you the options to hide posts that you have opened, hide every post above the one you are currently viewing, and the ability to mark all above posts as read. This is useful because if you have been browsing for a while and you want to refresh, instead of scrolling through many posts, you just need to tap one button that hides all above posts. Examples of Easter eggs that have been hidden include one in which refreshing a subreddit will produce a little animated narwhal that will do contextual actions. For example on /r/WTF, the tip of the narwhal’s tail will be replaced with bloody bones, and he will be vomiting.
Then there’s Apollo, the newest reddit browser for iOS, that in only a week, has gained over 10k reviews in the app store with a rating of 4.9 stars. Apollo is designed to look like an extension of iOS, matching iOS 11’s aesthetic perfectly. Apollo draws you in with its slick aesthetic, with each post consisting of the post’s content, the name of the sub directly below, the number of points, number of comments, and the age of the post directly below that. Tapping on a photo will enlarge it, and tapping below the photo will bring up the comments. This is unlike Narwhal, which allows users to expand the photo and bring up the comments in the same action. Both apps use a gesture-based system for interacting with posts. Both systems work well. However, Narwhal allows users to alter the swipe distance for interacting with posts. My main gripe with Apollo is the fact that most of its functionality is locked behind a paywall. This means that you can’t submit posts, customize the app icon, or add more than one account without tipping the developer $2.99. Unlike Narwhal however, Apollo is ad free, meaning that the dev’s only form of revenue comes through an in-app purchase. Submitting posts is supposed to be free, like in every other Reddit browser, so it feels annoying to have to pay to get such an essential feature. You don’t have access to very many preferences in Apollo — even after you’ve paid, you get the option to toggle between light and dark themes with the ability to toggle between light and dark when your screen brightness drops below a certain point, or at a specific time of day. You also have the option to change the app icon, lock the app with either touch ID or a pass code, and add multiple accounts.
In conclusion, Apollo is for someone that wants a simple reddit app that blends perfectly with iOS, whereas Narwhal is for the person that wants to customize every aspect of their Reddit browsing experience.