Circa, which debuted on iOS a year ago and came to Android early this month, strives to make scanning through the crucial points of an issue to gain some understanding of it as easy as reading through headlines. This may not appeal so much to those accustomed to consume their news from the spacious comfort of a tablet in a calm reading environment, but, to those who like to stay current with world events within the cramped confines of a a smartphone screen during coffee breaks, it is a godsend. Even more so, perhaps, to blind users who rely on speech output for reading on the go and may therefore find it tedious to resume reading in the middle of a lengthy article.

Circa's editorial team takes fresh, developing stories and breaks them down into manageable sentence-length chunks which convey all the points they deem crucial. Because such work, even if skillfully done, cannot possibly capture the whole story, an extensive list of sources and related articles, both within and beyond Circa's pool, is provided for further reading. Each story is monitored and updated by the team as information becomes available, and it's even possible to be notified when this occurs.

The Android app itself is very simple and clean, furthering Circa's goal of minimising the effort required to keep abreast of what's hapening in the world. By tapping "Navigate up" in the top lift corner of the headlines screen, it is possible to browse by section, or one can simply swipe left or right (with two fingers for accessibility users) to skip from section to section. The same is true in individual stories, making it extremely easy to glance rapidly through stories to gauge their relative interest.

The story screen stays true to the minimalist design with just a few buttons at the top of the screen to, from left to right, view citations, share via other apps, upload a copy to Google Drive and follow or unfollow the story. Otherwise, it's just a matter of swiping through the chunks of text to learn the key points of any issue. Better still, this screen plays well with TalkBack's continuous reading mode, which means one has but to engage it to hear the whole story. Links to related content, both internal and external to Circa, are accessible and clickable without problem.

In order to be able to follow stories and receive push notifications when they are updated, it is necessary to sign up. Circa has elected to do this through Google Accounts which makes the process painless and reasonably accessible, apart from some webview difficulties which are none but Google's fault. Circa will also issue notifications for breaking news alerts, though this can be disabled under settings if desired.

Unsurprisingly, there is also a widget to adorn one's home screen with the latest news; it's a great way to keep up with what's going on without opening any app. Unfortunately, although it is theoretically possible to tap on a story within the widget to open and read it, this can prove a little difficult, as the headlines sometimes scroll too fast, causing a different story to open.

Finally, a special word should be said about Circa's attitude to accessibility request and support in general. When I began using the app some weeks ago, the section headings were all labeled the same; I wrote to point it out and an update fixing the problem was pushed out the next day. Today, I contacted them again regarding a different issue and received a prompt reply assuring me a fix would be once again present in an upcoming update and encouraging me to report any further issues. "Thanks for the feedback and please let us know of any other problems you might have. Accessibility is something we have been focusing on lately." Many major app developers, Google included, could learn from these people.

The concept behind Circa is brilliant and, to my knowledge, unparalleled; the packaging is compelling and bolsters the experience. There are some limitations inherent to the idea; anybody actively following the technology scene, for example, will seldom find the stories in that section to be of particular interest. The intensive editorial work involved also means that coverage is a little scant and haphazard at the moment, mostly dealing with U.S and some world news, plus a few extra topics like science and technology; hopefully, as user-base and revenue increase, this can be broadened. In the meantime, if ever you get tired of relegating news articles to Pocket or Instapaper halfway through, consider giving Circa a try.