News: A Holo Google News Client

The Android operating system is scattered with news apps. There seems to be hundreds to choose from and most times, we don’t really know which one is the best for our needs. Last month at Android.Appstorm, we looked at the 40 Best News Apps For Tablets and covered a wide range of news genres. Today, we’ll be looking at News, a holo-designed client for Google News.

News will definitely catch your eye. Whether because of its desirable features or its appealing UI, it has the potential to become the only news apps you’ll ever need again.


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Features and Settings

When you first open News, you’re taken to a main page that shows a range of different headings. These include, but are not limited to, Entertainment, Politics and World News. Navigating between topics can be easily achieved by swiping left and right. Under each category, you have the most recent articles and scrolling down will keep loading more.

The opening screen.

Selecting an article takes you to a page with a main picture and a small extract. If you want to read the full content, you just need to click on the extract to be taken to the original website. You can also see the related articles below the extract.

The top of the page changes here to give you access to the main news sites inside the category you are navigating. Swiping between these will yield the top news written by each site.

Article image and extract, related content and other news sources.

And that’s basically it. Everything, as you can see, is easy to find and simple to read. I should note though that I only tested News on the Nexus 7 — the experience might be different on phones, but all of the features should be there.

The only other options in News are the settings. There, you can change your location and choose your favorite topics, removing those you don’t care about and adding more of your interests. You’re also given the option to disable thumbnails and high-resolution images to save on your internet bandwidth.

Settings screen.

Gorgeously Simple Interface

The first thing you’ll notice about News is its interface, and in this case, it’s for good reasons. Other than being nice on the eyes, a great and simple design can pull together all of an app’s features and this is what I commend the News developers for. The black, blue and white colors blend perfectly with the Holo elements to provide an inviting look for the reader.

The next thing which impresses is the easy navigation between different areas of the app. In the past, I’ve reviewed apps that left me confused, with a bad impression that I simply couldn’t forget from the onset. However, this isn’t the case with News. The UX is very similar to Android’s default apps, so grasping it will be effortless and basically second nature to any Android user.

Another nifty addition is the use of fragments — or columns, if you prefer the less technical term — in landscape on phones and tablets. This allows News to display both the article list and the article view (image and extract) next to each other on the same screen, making it easy to jump between different stories and consume content.

Landscape view with Fragments

Landscape view with Fragments on a phone: the article list on the left, the article view (image and extract) on the right.

More Nice Features

First of all, it bears repeating that News pulls all of its data from Google News, a reputable source with pertinent and smartly syndicated articles. This means that unlike other news apps that are based on more shady sources, all of the content will be interesting and relevant to current affairs.

Second, News comes with a nice widget. Like millions of Android users, I’m constantly looking for the best widgets to place on my homescreen to speed-up the access to an app’s content. Usually though, most widgets disappoint me with poor design and no benefit from using them compared to a simple shortcut icon.

Thankfully, this is not the case with News. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the way its widget was set up. After selecting a specific news type, a stack box with one article’s title and image will appear. Swiping on it will circulate between all the main articles. This is the exact same setup as the YouTube widget, and it works brilliantly for this type of app. What makes this even more likable is the fact that Android 4.2 now allows you to resize widgets.

The News widget – Notice the resemblance with the YouTube widget.

Unmissable Flaws

Despite all the good things I can say about News, there are a few frustrating problems with the app.

First, is the lack of good full content display inside the app. Once you’ve picked an interesting article, News will take you to the browser to let you read the whole piece. This defeats the whole purpose of its beautiful interface, since you can’t enjoy it for long and will have to endure whatever the original site serves — ads, clunky designs, different formatting and such.

However, there’s currently an experimental feature in the app’s Settings called Artikel Content that will pull the full story’s text. For now, the text is displayed as is, in one block without any formatting or line breaks. So basically, at the moment, News will force you to either put up with external links or with terribly displayed text. I hope that future updates will fix the issue and make the complete piece readable correctly inside the app.

Full story displayed as one block of text: dreadful.

The second problem I have with News is the lack of an auto-refresh option. Every time I open the app, I need to click the refresh icon or you I’ll find myself reading out-of-date content. Being accustomed to apps auto-updating, I have fallen for this trick quite often and I’m not alone — many users have voiced their frustration over this in the app’s Play Store comment section. Fixing this simple flaw could greatly enhance News’ usability and ratings.

Wrap-Up

News has an excellently designed and built base. The interface, simplicity, and widget combined with the content’s relevance make it one of the best Google News clients on the Play Store.

However, as it currently stands, News might not be for everyone. If you want your full articles displayed and you dislike external browsers, you’re better off skipping News and heading for Currents or other news syndicators like Pulse or Flipboard.


Summary

News is a holo-based Google News client that delivers the most recent stories on different topics to your phone and tablet.

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