Now that Google Reader is about to go away, what’s a mobile user supposed to do about pulling together and sharing news stories? Fortunately for all of you news fans, there are some highly viable alternatives. Here are seven other news reader apps, of various stripes, for Android OS.
If you haven’t heard by now, as part of the 2013 round of its annual spring cleaning routine, Google announced earlier this month that it will shut down the Google Reader platform on July 1.
The Google Reader alternatives below range from other RSS readers, such as FeedR and NewsRob, to Flipboard’s slick “social magazine” platform, to ultra easy-to-use apps like NewsQuical and Newsflash.
I tested these apps on Android smartphones and tablets. The gamut of news reader choices for iPhones and iPads is different from those for Android, although Pulse News, Flipboard, and Pocket, for example, are all available in both iOS and Android flavors.
Find out more about these seven news reader options below…
FeedR is an RSS reader a la Google Reader, but with a little more ability to let you get started right away. It can be synced to your Google Reader account (while Google Reader still exists!), or you can configure it independently, either by searching for feeds to add or by taking a default selection of them.
One of FeedR’s neat little features is that you can choose between “light” and “dark” modes, making it more comfortable to read in low light. Unfortunately, though, FeedR could use a little polishing of its interface.
There are so many minor layout options that even looking at the settings menu can be dizzying. Also, things which should be simple, like switching between light and dark modes, require a full trip into the settings rather than just a quick switch.
Pulse News, by Alphonso Labs
Pulse News blends the approaches of both pre-programmed news and your own custom feeds. Support is included for RSS feeds, but you can also bring Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, and other social media outlets directly into the regular news app.
You can customize how pages are laid out: for instance, creating one page for serious news, a second for social networking, and a third for comedy and entertainment.
This makes Pulse News a pretty solid choice for those who want a wide variety of news available to them, but who also want to be able to hook in to their custom-chosen sites and sources.
Pulse is easy to use, clean, and very flexible.
On the iOS side, Flipboard has just been updated with the ability to search within the app and “create your own magazine” about whatever topic you want, whether that’s cars, chess, or some exotic locale, for instance. The same changes are expected to hit the Android version soon. As for the existing Android app, it automatically lays out its content in a magazine-like look, anyway, allowing you to “flip” between pages and tap on stories to get the full text.
On a smartphone, there’s one story per “page,” and on a tablet several. That’s Flipboard’s main shortcoming. It’s not ideally suited for the smaller screen of a smartphone. It needs and deserves a tablet to best show off its abilities.
But the great advantage of Flipboard is depth. While most apps which gather their own news will get a limited number of articles in any one category — maybe 10, maybe 20, but rarely more — with Flipboard you can flip much farther. Just in the “science” section alone, I managed to flip through over 110 pages on my tablet — each “page” carrying three to five stories — without even getting to the end.
You will see some repeat versions of stories about the same event, or study, from multiple publications, but overall the range of what you can access using Flipboard is just staggering. The depth is limited not just to categories. You can also select specific news outlets, including many online-only ones beyond just the “big names.” Flipboard manages to be both hugely customizable and easy to use. That’s no small feat.
NewsQuical, by Hardy-infinity
NewsQuical is simpler than most of the other apps here. This can be either a good or bad thing depending on your tastes. The app comes almost entirely pre-configured. You don’t have to connect it to your RSS feeds, or choose areas of interest. You just install it and choose your home country.
The app then gives you a smattering of top stories in various categories like world news, technology, science, etc. In a way, NewsQuical is sort of like perusing a digital newspaper; you can choose which sections you want to read, but the article selection isn’t tailored to you.
That makes it great for the casual reader who’d just like to catch up on what’s going on. However, people who have specific interests will probably find this app too limiting. It’s heavy on offline sources like papers and news networks, and it only features the most high profile of online outfits.
The app is very easy to use, though. Tapping on a story headline automatically opens the story in your default web browser.
Newsflash follows a pretty similar tack to NewsQuical, but it offers slightly greater customization and a sleeker user interface. For example, you can sort stories by how recent they are (either newest first or oldest first), or by how popular they are.
You can also turn off images, to save data and load the pages faster. Newsflash even provides slightly different interfaces depending on whether you’re using it in portrait or landscape, in order to minimize any wasted screen space.
There are a lot of positive things to say about Newsflash. It has the simplicity of an instant news app, but a little more flexibility as to how you want to view things. I’d like to see the ability to customize what categories you view — for instance, if you aren’t interested in business or sports news — as well as the option to display news from more than one country at a time.
For the basics, though, the app is good. The free version is ad supported, while Bingzer also offers a Pro version without the ads for 99 cents.
NewsRob, by Mariano Kamp
NewsRob is another RSS reader with the ability to sync to Google Reader. The app offers a simple, easy-to-use interface with gesture support, and it will even give you tips about certain features the first time through.
It’s very solid and simple to set up, with features like a speedy “web mode” for reading entire articles, full-screen viewing, and support for different settings such as mobile formatting pages.
Its biggest failing is not being able to prioritize feeds, so that rarely updated but important ones aren’t drowned out.
Unfortunately, the app hasn’t been updated in almost a year, making me wonder whether NewsRob is going to be getting many new features.
Pocket is rather different than most of the other selections here. Instead of delivering either a live news feed, or your RSS selections, it lets you tag items that you find interesting around the web in order to store them.
You can do this by emailing Pocket a link to something, tagging it from your web browser, or sharing it from inside other apps.
Flipboard, for instance, integrates with Pocket in order to save articles for later viewing, as do many other apps.
Once something is saved (with the exception of things like YouTube videos), it’ll be synced to all of your devices, so that you can read it even if you’re not connected to the internet.
Granted, offline reading might seem almost inconsequential in these days of always on data connections. But if you’re on a limited data plan, or if you have a WiFi-only tablet, offline reading can be very convenient.
Pocket also allows you to keep a handy dandy list of bookmarks with you at all times, no matter what device you’re on.