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Reddit launches its first official apps for iOS and Android

TechCrunch TechCrunch 7/04/2016 Sarah Perez

Reddit’s long-awaited native mobile applications – the first-ever to be built by the company in-house – have now launched. Available today for both iOS and Android, the new Reddit app will not only serve as the official means for accessing Reddit on mobile amid a sea of third-party clients, it will also replace Alien Blue, the popular third-party application the company acquired back in fall 2014, as previously announced.

Alien Blue will no longer be able in the available in the App Store and Google Play, meaning it won’t be accessible to new users who have yet to install it on their phone.

Alex Le, Reddit’s Vice President of Consumer Product, describes the decision to wind down Alien Blue a “difficult” one. When he arrived in November, he said that one of his goals was to improve and stabilize Alien Blue, but what started out as a simple improvement project ended up becoming a much larger effort.

The engineering team soon realized then it was better to rebuild its iOS application from the ground up in order to make it “faster, more modern and more usable,” he explains.

In addition, thanks to a new code base, the plan now is to deliver new features at a faster pace than what was possible before with the Alien Blue application. In fact, the plan is to roll out updates at least once per month, if not more, we’re told.

However, it wasn’t just the need to speed up the time it takes to deliver app improvements that prompted Reddit to stake its own claim on mobile. The company also says that 50 percent of users today browse Reddit on mobile, including both the mobile web and via third-party applications. When half your audience is arriving via mobile, you have to think more carefully about the experience you want to deliver.

Though Alien Blue is being shut down, Reddit is hoping to transition those users to the new mobile app by applying what it learned over the many months following its acquisition.

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“We learned a lot from our passionate Alien Blue community about what makes a great iOS app and we applied those learnings when building Reddit for iOS,” Le explains. “Due to limited resources, we decided to focus our efforts on making Reddit for iOS our primary and official Reddit client.”

Alien Blue’s developer also had a hand in building the new apps as an engineer, we should note.

The new Reddit mobile application offers a number of key features that aim to differentiate it from the wide range of clients now on the market. It includes a “card view” option to better showcase rich media content, for example, and it sometimes offers platform-specific features when it can – like iOS’s draggable “speed-read” button.

Some features are aimed at catering to the needs of more regular Redditors – including those that have not been available in other third-party clients, or even Alien Blue. One of these is support for customizable subreddits. In the new Reddit app, moderators will now be able to customize the way their subreddits look and feel.

Meanwhile, other improvements are more under-the-hood adjustments, like the app’s size. The iOS download is only 4.8 megabytes – that means the app will download in just a few seconds on an LTE connection, the company points out.

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Though Alien Blue may be shut down to make room for Reddit’s official new application, Reddit doesn’t have any plans to restrict its community of third-party app developers now that it’s making a more serious effort on mobile. Instead, the focus is just on offering a great experience for its own audience.

“Having a native Reddit app on Android and iOS — especially one that’s this fast — is going to ruin a lot of people’s productivity. And I’m okay with that,” says Alexis Ohanian, Reddit co-founder. “The team has done a remarkable job shipping such a polished app in such a short period of time and it’s only going to get better! It’s a privilege to be able to create for such a devoted user base of hundreds of millions of people.”

Reddit has been teasing its native mobile applications for some time (including yesterday, via Facebook). Plus, earlier this year, the Android beta test went live, but those sign-ups were quickly closed. In total, 4,000 users, both internal and external, had access to the apps prior to today’s launch, the company tells us.

The new Reddit app is live on the iTunes App Store and Google Play.

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