Android has a number of great news readers, and the differences between each are minute. It's hard to pick just one, but if we had to dub one the best, it would be the feature-filled, Google Reader-syncing Newsrob.
Platform: Android Price: Free, $5.51 Pro Download Page
- Syncs with Google Reader and supports many of its features including starring, sorting, sharing items with your friends, and labels
- A clean, minimalistic interface
- Two-way background sync, so you always have the latest feeds as soon as you open the app
- Download full and partial feeds and view the original articles with one tap
- Offline caching, so you can read your feeds even when you don't have a connection
- Hide or show read articles to minimise clutter
- Finger gestures and volume key navigation
- Integration with Setting Profiles and Locale for more refined sync preferences
- A pro version that adds "share with note", a dark reading theme, full screen mode, "mark read until here", and a home screen widget
Newsrob is probably the most feature-filled reader on the Market, from little things like volume key navigation to the serious features like offline reading. You can configure nearly everything in the settings too, from how many unread articles it caches, to whether it caches images, and even whether it downloads an Instapaper-, Readability-, or Google Mobilizer-optimised version of the original web page. It syncs faster than most other feed readers on the Market, and has a minimalistic interface that does away with the clutter and gets you reading your feeds fast. If there's something you want to configure about the way Newsrob handles your feeds, the option probably exists, making it a great reader for just about anyone.
There are very few things Newsrob doesn't do well. It doesn't stream podcasts, which is a minor nuisance at most, and sometimes its interface can be a little confusing for newbies. For example, by default, it only shows your feeds that have unread articles, and you have to go into the settings to sync your other feeds.
Similarly, because it's so configurable, you have to be pretty careful about how much you limit it or how much you let through. If you limit it too much, you could end up with one of your busier feeds overpowering the others (since it will delete old articles first), and if you let too much through your phone can get really slow. Most of this isn't necessarily NewsRob's fault, it's just something you might run into if you aren't careful.
Most of the top news readers on Android are pretty similar to Newsrob, but with very minor differences. gReader, for example, has really nice podcast support, but doesn't have the Instapaper/Readability integration. Its interface also has a few little quirks that make it more difficult to use — for example, to read all the feeds in a specific folder, you have to click on the tiny arrow next to the folder. How are you supposed to know that?
Greed is also pretty great, adding some cool features like "Where Am I?" that is like a bookmark, saving the feed you were on in your last session so you can pick up where you left off. The official Google Reader client is also out there, but frankly, its lack of advanced features make it barely worth a mention. It's got a great, clean interface, but apart from that you don't have a lot of options.
While they don't fill quite the same niche, it's worth mentioning the more visual-oriented apps like Pulse, which organises your feeds into a very pretty mosaic of thumbnails. It's interface is fantastic, but we wouldn't recommend it if you have a lot of feeds, as it can get difficult to navigate quickly. If you only have a few feeds (or just sync a few of your favourites to it), it's a really great example of how good-looking applications can be done on Android. FeedSquares is a similar interface-focused app that is big on looks and less so on features.
Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories. This week, we're focusing on news readers.