I’m really addicted to RSS. I don’t know how to explain it without sounding like the biggest loser of all time, but the only real way to say it is to tell you that Google Reader’s death was almost a traumatic experience for me. I made the switch over to Feed Wrangler, a paid subscription service with a couple of unique ideas of its own, because I felt a paid service offered more long-term stability and I wouldn’t have to stress out ever again — although, admittedly, I consider trying out Feedbin on occasion to see what that’s like.
But even the best subscription service in the world fails if it doesn’t have an amazing app to go with it, especially since that’s what I was used to with Google Reader. Feed Wrangler got a lot of great support from developers straight out of the gate, including Press on Android. I think Press is one of the most sublime experiences you’ll find in Google Play, and it’s worth every penny. If you don’t have it yet, you need to read the rest of this review.
Press supports Feed Wrangler, Feedbin, Feedly and Fever as RSS services. You can read more about these services and the different RSS and news options on Android in 20 Apps to ‘Feed’ Your Addiction in a Post Google Reader World.
First of all, let’s get straight to the point: Press has one of the most beautiful interfaces available on Android. It’s a simple app, very easy to navigate, and very modern with its interface. It’s one of the few apps that has the courage to require a relatively modern Android phone or tablet; you have to be running Ice Cream Sandwich or higher if you want to download it. Twentyfive Squares want to use only the most modern of Google’s design standards. They’re not making anything for the common denominator.
As a result of that, the level of detail they’ve been able to achieve with the interface in Press is unparalleled with anything else I’ve seen in Android, beyond Android itself. They’ve come up with great new twists on RSS reading — like the ability to intelligently mark all articles below a certain point in a list as read — and managed to make text insanely readable, despite Android’s inconsistencies with typeface kits (something that I hope to see fixed in 5.0’s release).
The little things make all the difference, though. Many app developers miss the point and make something overly complicated when it doesn’t need to be, but Press manages to make every important bit of the app obvious without taking away from any of its subtleties.
Press is an app that masters two worlds very artfully: it’s easy to use, and it still has the power to amuse you as you learn more about its intricacies. It’s intuitive and user-friendly, but still has a sense of depth.
The Reading Experience
It’s one thing to go on and on about how intricately designed something is, but at the end what matters is the user experience from start to finish. As mundane as it is, the most important part of the user experience in an app like this is the reading experience. And Press nails it.
I mentioned typefaces earlier, and this seems as good a time as any to get back to them. When I first started using the app, before I chose a different font, I thought the app’s type looked unevenly spaced and inconsistent — which is a qualm I have with Android in general, to be honest. I took a look through settings and made the appropriate changes, playing with them until I settled on a Serif font that I liked for long-form reading. It renders beautifully.
All the app’s included typefaces are the standard ones that Android is built with, and they remain some of the most popular fonts of all time in Google Fonts as well. They’re popular for a reason — a couple of them are admittedly very good. I ended up settling on PT Serif.
But the fonts sit on a very plain screen that handles both images and text very well. It looks great on both my Nexus 4 and my first-generation Nexus 7. In fact, as far as text and image rendering, it’s better than every other app I have on my devices, even Chrome. The only app I use that comes even close is Instapaper.
It’s no small praise to say that I enjoy reading on Press so much that I wish it could handle Read Later queues as well. Ah well. One can dream.
Double tap on any image to open the viewer where you can easily pinch to zoom and view the image’s details. Double tap anywhere in the article to open it in a Readability-powered mobilizer view.
Where It’s At
The app has been updated recently with a few core features. The first, and I think the most important, is that Fever is supported. A lot of holdouts from the app are now going to be able to use it, and people who truly value independence from any RSS provider are in a good place here.
The update also provides offline image caching and totally redesigned Settings, which are both great. I don’t have any complaints about the Settings as they are now, and I think they’re now a little more consistent with the article list views than they were before.
There are certainly some performance improvements as well. Press used to crash on occasion or refuse to fetch my articles until I forced a reboot, but now I don’t have any problems like that, even with extended reading. The app seems to have smoothed itself out again since the Google Reader fiasco, and that’s a huge deal.
There are a couple things I wish the app had, like a way to use an Instapaper mobilizer in-app instead of Readability while I’m reading articles. But the default mobilizer is so good that I’m not sure that qualifies as a real complaint. Short of becoming a full-fledged Read Later app, I’m not sure what could make Press any better.
At the end of the day, I’m fully aware that we’re just talking about an RSS Reader and I’m heaping tons of praise on it. In fact, the way I’m talking, you might think that Press is the second coming of the app. In some ways, it is. Press is one of the only apps I can think of that follows Google’s standards for design without them ever becoming a detriment. There are enough fresh ideas here to make it stand out, but it still feels like an experience that squarely belongs on Android.
And that’s a huge compliment. Android is great, and it’s an amazing platform, but in many app categories, there are no direct contenders for iOS heavy contenders. Press is a huge contender for iOS apps like Reeder or Mr. Reader, one that demonstrates what Android is capable of. I hope a lot of Android developers are watching it very closely and taking notes, because Press is very revealing of what is possible with the platform.