Android has several great news readers and while many of them have gone by the wayside now that Google Reader is no more, others have stepped up to take centre stage. If we had to pick one that fits the needs of most people and packs in a ton of useful features, it would have to be the free, cross-platform, cross-device syncing Feedly.
- A customisable interface with four views depending on how you like to read the news, the “full-article view” for each article in your feed, “cards view” that arranges articles in tiles on-screen, the “magazine view” which includes images along with titles, and the “list view” that emulates the Google Reader style with only headlines and text.
- Feedly Cloud two-way syncing, so your saved articles, unread/read articles, and feeds follow you on all of your devices
- Support for Android phones and tablets, including 7″ and 10″ tablets.
- Download full and partial feeds and view the original articles with one tap.
- Lets you save articles in Feedly (and syncs those saved articles to Feedly Cloud) for future reading.
- Supports Pocket and Instapaper for saving articles for future reading, and lets you set a favourite as the default.
- Supports sharing articles via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Buffer, Email, and through Android’s built-in “Share” function, and lets you set a favourite as the default.
- Allows you to add, remove, and rearrange feeds from your phone or tablet.
- Supports finger gestures to open/close/save articles (double-tap to close, long-press to save, swipe to go to next article) and can use your volume up/down buttons for navigation.
- Hide or show read articles to minimize clutter.
- Can automatically mark items as read as you swipe through them.
- Features “day” and “night” reading themes, and three transitions (stack, swipe, and scroll) used when you switch articles and feeds.
- Easy import from OPML (or your old Google Reader data, if you still have it).
- Large and small home screen widgets.
Where It Excels
Feedly’s biggest benefit is that it’s fast, free and flexible. When Google Reader went under, Feedly stepped up quickly to give Android users a seamless way to move their feeds over and get access to them all on their phones and tablets, with the same two-way syncing experience they had with Google Reader. To that end, it’s been very successful. The look and feel of the Feedly Android app is consistent with its desktop and iOS cousins, and while it’s not the prettiest, it is customisable to suit your preferences. If you like reading your articles with big, beautiful images over each one, you can — at the expense of screen space. If you prefer skimming headlines only and don’t want the clutter of images or videos, you can minimize the interface to show you only the things you’re interested in.
It’s that flexibility that makes Feedly’s native app a winner. Since Feedly is by far your favourite Google Reader replacement and our pick for the best alternative, too, it probably won’t bother most of you that the only syncing engine that Feedly supports is its own. Beyond that though, the options explode — you can share with virtually every major social network, save articles to almost every major “read it later” style service, and since you also get access to Android’s built-in share menu, your options are only limited by the apps you have on your phone. If you’re serious about your feeds, Feedly even supports Android logins, so if you have a Google account configured on your phone, you can use it to log in to Feedly. You can even log out and switch Google accounts if you need to.
Where It Falls Short
Feedly’s native apps aren’t perfect. Right now there’s no offline support, and that’s a huge bummer. Offline support has been “coming soon” for ages now, and it has well over 12,000 votes in Feedly’s UserVoice forum. Beyond that, while the layout of articles and feeds are customisable, the app only has two themes, and it would be nice to have a few more. Its layout is functional, but it’s also a bit spartan and can be a bit boring at times. Feedly also doesn’t stream podcasts, and while it’ll recognise that some RSS feeds are media, it won’t always play them back in the mobile apps.
If you’re looking for some alternatives to Feedly’s native apps, or even its syncing and feed reading engine, you do have some alternatives for Android. Here are a few:
Press ($2.84) is probably my personal favourite feed reader for Android. It supports Feedly Cloud, so if you already use Feedly, all you have to do is connect Press with your Feedly account. If you don’t use Feedly, Press also supports syncing via FeedBin and FeedWrangler (and Fever is coming soon). Press also supports offline reading, so you can save your articles and catch up when you’re on the plane or subway. It’s design and layout is also leaps and bounds better, and it sports a beautiful interface that we’ve highlighted before. Press also supports YouTube’s API, so it can pull in videos from your favourite channels, supports Dashclock Widget so you can see how many unread articles you have from your lock screen, looks great on phones and tablets, lets you change the text size and alignment, and more. Overall, Press offers a ton of options to customise and control your reading experience.
The only major drawbacks to Press are that it doesn’t support in-article search (something Feedly doesn’t support either), and while it supports Readability, it doesn’t offer the same wealth of sharing and saving options that Feedly’s native apps do (although you do get access to Android’s share feature, which opens that door back up a bit). Still, if you have three bucks to spend and that’s not important to you, buy Press. You won’t be disappointed.
Flipboard (Free) made waves when it was launched because of its beautiful, magazine-like view of the news and snappy gesture controls. It’s still a great app, and you can even add your favourite sites to stay on top of the sites that you follow. Flipboard was one of the first apps to let you pull in your Google Reader feeds, and while it still tends to organise and prioritise news from its own selection of sites, it’s still a good option if you’re looking for an attractive news reader. You can connect your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and up to 12 other accounts to incorporate topics and articles your friends are sharing, select topics you’re interested in to have them pre-populated with news, and you can search for and add sites you like, but trying to use it as a full-on RSS reader might be a little tricky just by virtue of the interface. If you’re a control freak and only want to read the sites you love, you may not like Flipboard, but if you’re a little more adventurous, it can surface stories you may never have otherwise seen. You can save content to Pocket, Instapaper, or Readability for future reading, explore the “Staff picks,” or use your Flipboard account to build a “custom” magazine on the web to read on any device.
Google Currents (Free) is a lot like Flipboard, only Googlier. You can import your own feeds to Currents (and before Google Reader’s shut down, Currents was a fully-featured Google Reader client), view your articles in a beautiful tiled view that emphasises images but doesn’t skimp on the content, and explore new articles from some of Currents’ featured sites, like The Financial Times, PBS, Saveur and more. Currents can push breaking news to you, translate articles from sites in 44 different languages into ones you can read and lets you “star” stories you want to read later for future reference. By comparison, Currents is a little lighter on features than some of the other apps available, but it does what it does exceptionally well.
Pulse (Free), like many of the apps here, is more of a news reader than a straight feed reader, but it functions pretty well as both. You start out with a curated selection of categories and sites in each, but you can always add or remove content as you see fit and customise those categories so you see the articles you want to see. Pulse also has its own syncing engine, and to use the app you’ll need to sign up for an account at Pulse.me, which gives you more control over which sites and feeds you see and which you don’t. If you see an article you want to read later, you can save it to Instapaper, Readability, Pocket, or Evernote, and you can save articles for offline reading if you’re about to get on a plane or train. Plus, using your Pulse account syncs your settings and sources so you can pick up where you left off on the desktop or another mobile device. Pulse’s visual approach to its layout makes it fun to use, but if you’re yearning for a simple all-text list view, you might be out of luck.
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