I’ve discovered a cool new mobile app called Umano. Described as ‘interesting news read to you by real people’ it is an alternative to radio or podcasts for busy news junkies on the go. Umano reads out selected news articles to you using actual voices (sorry Siri), so instead of making do with radio news headlines you might listen to a 6 minute NY Times article instead. This is ideal if you are driving, or if you normally listen to music on your phone while on the treadmill/walking the dog, or even if you want to give your eyes a rest while on the bus or train. Visually impaired people will also benefit from this app.

The Umano team hand curate around 20 news articles each day from a wide range of popular sources including Wired, The Next Web, Ad Age, BBC, Business Insider, NY Times, Fast Company, Thought Catalog, Lifehacker and loads more. Something for everyone!  4 voice actors record the articles which you can then select from the categories that interest you (Technology, Business, Entertainment, Lifestyle etc) to listen to now, or add to your personalised playlist. Offline listening is available which is handy for when you are off WiFi.  You can even select a desired playlist duration (to match your commute) and an auto playlist will be created for you. The source article can be viewed if you want to speed read ahead, and a handy 15s rewind button lets you jump back a bit if you momentarily lost concentration.Umano auto PL

A new ‘Car Mode’ lets you easily skip articles or pause playing from the super large display. There is even a ‘2x’ button for listening at twice the speed which doesn’t turn the voice into Mickey Mouse. The usual liking and sharing functionality is available, including saving for listening later, or clipping to Evernote. Next up on the feature list are voice controls for handsfree operation.

Umano is made by ex-Googlers SoThree, and is available on iOS and Android. And is free! Already over 1 million articles have been listened to on Umano since the Dec ’12 launch. Not sure how they are making money as I haven’t heard any pre-roll ads (as you might expect). They don’t appear to have affiliated content agreements with the news sources – and presumably content copyright is not an issue either.

You won’t turn to this app for breaking news (as there is no time to voice record the article), but it’s ideal for catching up on news while you are driving or even playing through speakers while you are busy in the kitchen in the morning.

Definitely worth a listen if you are a news junkie.