Hands-free Zik-Tok My Personal Radio can read you the news, in theory

Jan 31, 2011
Tech

I like to stay on top of news, so when I can’t give my undivided attention to reading it, I’m all for a shortcut, such as having the news read to me by my secretary. The only problem is that I don’t have a secretary. App Zik-Tok – My Personal Radio aims to step in […]

I like to stay on top of news, so when I can’t give my undivided attention to reading it, I’m all for a shortcut, such as having the news read to me by my secretary. The only problem is that I don’t have a secretary. App Zik-Tok – My Personal Radio aims to step in for us secretary-less folks by reading aloud a customized news feed that includes headlines, personal reminders, stocks, weather, traffic conditions and tweets. That’s big talk from a little app, and, ultimately, I found Zik-Tok unable to deliver.

Touted as a customizable app, Zik-Tok does give some options, such as a male or female voice, but not enough to be truly customizable. For your news feed, Zik-Tok provides a variety of RSS feeds to choose from in its options panel, but you can only choose one feed at a time. Most users probably will stick with one of the top headline options to get the most comprehensive information, but the inability to read multiple sites defeats much of the app’s purpose. If I have to take the time to choose a feed each time I want sports or entertainment news, I should just read it myself. I also got caught in a major glitch after switching to an entertainment feed — Zik-Tok wouldn’t let me switch to another feed, and the only fix was a delete-reinstall. I do, however, like that Zik-Tok is able to use your current GPS location to grab current weather and traffic conditions.

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Zik-Tok does not support background processes or fast-app switching, and it doesn’t retain your play preferences, which means every time you start the app, it’ll start talking to you, whether you like it or not. Response time might be the slowest ever seen in an app; swiping through screens or pausing that damn voice is arduous. The app also only reads from the top of the screen, so if you’re interested in only the bottom story or you exit the app in the middle of its narration, you’ll have to listen to all of the content on the page. Because Zik-Tok is pulling from RSS feeds, most stories are not complete.

When it comes to actually reading your content, Zik-Tok does a mediocre job. The voices are exactly what you’d expect from a computer, and they pronounce more words wrong than right. In fact, my favorite aspect of Zik-Tok was listening to it read my Twitter feed. It’s deciphering of Twitter handles and reading links letter-for-letter produced hilarious results.

Download the app to hear your Twitter stream or to try out the traffic and weather functions, but don’t count on it to be useful for news.

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Kathryn Swartz

Kathryn Swartz is a freelance writer/editor who doesn't know how people lived pre iPhone. She attended the Missouri School of Journalism.

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