JR Raphael

First look: BuzzVoice for Android

August 23, 2010 9:00 AM EDT

Call me crazy, but my Android phone and I have been having some great conversations lately.

With Google's new Voice Actions, I've been using voice commands to control my handset every day. And now, thanks to a new app about to hit the Android Market, my phone's started talking back to me, too.

BuzzVoice AndroidThe app is called BuzzVoice, and it turns your favorite blogs and news sites into personalized streaming podcasts. It's aimed at making it easy (and safe) to keep up with news on-the-go -- in your car, at the gym, wherever -- and it has the potential to change the way you consume information.

I was able to spend some time with the program in advance of its upcoming launch. Here's an exclusive sneak peek at how it works and what it can do for your phone.

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BuzzVoice for Android: The Vocal News App

BuzzVoice works by literally reading you the news. The program offers feeds from more than 1600 sources -- everything from The New York Times to Slashdot -- so it isn't hard to find something you like.

When you first open BuzzVoice, you'll spend a few minutes building your personal playlist. BuzzVoice breaks down the news into a dozen categories, each of which has a handful of subtopics to help you discover the sites you want. After selecting "Technology," for example, you can narrow down to sources specific to Android news, gadget news, social media news, and so on. With the basic BuzzVoice service, you can keep up to 15 different feeds in your playlist at any given time.

BuzzVoice Android

 

Once you've filled up your playlist, you just click onto any source to see a list of its latest stories. You can select stories one by one and have BuzzVoice convert them to audio on-the-fly, or you can tap an "auto" icon and have the app read you all of a site's recent stories without interruption.

BuzzVoice alternates between a female and a male voice, the latter of which sounds only slightly like Johnny 5. Aside from the occasional mispronunciation of a person's name, the voices actually do a pretty good job at playing anchorman (and anchorwoman). They're surprisingly lifelike and generally quite listenable.

BuzzVoice Android

 

In addition to site-specific feeds, BuzzVoice can play a mix of stories from all the sources you've selected, giving you a radio-like podcast of your Web-based news. If you want to expand your repertoire, there's also a "Top News" station that collects the most recent stories from around the Web and a "Top Blogs" station that focuses on sites like Lifehacker, Mashable, and Gizmodo. Or you can pick from the app's topic-specific "BuzzRadio" stations to drill down on a particular subject -- anything from Android news to politics, sports, or even celebrity gossip.

BuzzVoice Android

 

BuzzVoice for Android: Final Thoughts

The BuzzVoice Android interface is pleasant enough to use, though with all of the options available, it does take a bit of time to figure out how to best navigate the system and take advantage of its features. The app also includes a widget that lets you control playback from your home screen. It's a simple four-by-one box with functionality similar to most other audio-oriented widgets: You tap it once to open the app and select your station, then use its controls to play, pause, or move around within the playlist.

BuzzVoice Android

 

BuzzVoice will be launching in the Android Market later this week. (It's already available on the iPhone and online.) The app will cost $4.99, which includes a lifetime subscription to the basic BuzzVoice service.

We'll have some free copies to give away once the app debuts...stay tuned.

UPDATE (8/26/10): BuzzVoice for Android has officially launched. Win a free copy here!

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Facebook, on Twitter, or at eSarcasm, his geek-humor getaway.