NewsRob vs. gReader: A Showdown

If you follow a handful of websites regularly and you have heard of RSS feeds, chances are that you use the Google Reader service to stay on top of all the new articles posted every day. Google Reader offers a great collection of applications for Android, from the official Google Reader app, which is quite limited in its functions, to a slew of third party software.

Two of these alternatives, namely NewsRob Pro and gReader Pro, are aimed at the Reader power users. Being a power user myself, I have tried the two extensively and decided to share with you my findings.

Main Interface

Main folder screen on NewsRob (left) and gReader (right)

Main folder screen on NewsRob (left) and gReader (right)

NewsRob takes a bare bones approach to the interface, with the list of your Google Reader folders or tags, an All Articles section on top, a green marker on the left of the screen to show something as unread, and icons to display the number of items. Delving into a folder for a list of websites, then into that for a list of articles, take you to similarly designed screens.

A toolbar allows you to easily go back to the first screen or force a synchronization, a check mark helps quickly mark everything as read, and a round circle makes it simple to switch quickly between unread/all articles views

gReader’s interface is a bit similar on a first glance to NewsRob, with a list of your folders or tags and an All items section on top, however it uses two toolbars. The upper one gives you quick access to adding a feed, switching the view between Feeds only or Feeds and Tags, and lets you easily open your Podcasts, saved articles, starred articles, and recommendations.

The lower bar has the synchronization button, Mark All as Read, and a box that toggles between unread articles and all articles. Delving inside the main screen uses two paradigms in gReader: if you click on the number of items next to a folder (right side of the screen), a drop down list opens with the different feeds, but if you click on the folder’s name (left side of the screen) you’re taken directly to a list of articles, from all the feeds.

Winner: Tie. It depends on how you like your interface, NewsRob has 3 separate pages for folder-feed-article lists, whereas gReader uses drop downs to integrate the first two into one page.

Article View

Article view on NewsRob (left) and gReader (right)

Article view on NewsRob (left) and gReader (right)

The article view in NewsRob displays the feed as-is, with formatting and images. A star icon allows you to easily favorite a post, and there are menu options to mark the article as unread, view it in the separate browser, share its link to other applications, zoom in and out, and some more.

There are two other view modes for articles: one displays articles completely as a webpage inside NewsRob, and the other uses a Simplified webpage (via Instapaper, Readability, or Google Wireless Transcoder). The simplified view can be perfect for those websites with truncated RSS feeds, for example.

gReader’s article view is actually much cleaner with better on-screen controls. An upper bar gives you the option to switch the view between feed, web, and cache. A favorite icon and a check mark box are here for easy starring and marking as read or unread.

There is also an icon to open the article in a web browser, a share icon, and another “send” icon that integrates natively with Read It Later, Instapaper, or even translates the post for you. The menu holds more functions such as saving a page, tagging it, hiding the images and more.

Winner: gReader. However this win is tampered by one issue which is that gReader switches articles when you swipe sideways, so sometimes while scrolling down, you move you finger a bit diagonally and the article switches to the previous/next one. This, unfortunately, cannot be disabled.

Gestures and Interactions

NewsRob's unread and kept unread articles (left), gReader's gesture options (right)

NewsRob's unread and kept unread articles (left), gReader's gesture options (right)

NewsRob uses two gestures: a left-to-right swipe marks an article as read, a right-to-left swipe marks it unread (green marker). If a post is already unread, another right-to-left will pin it as kept unread (blue marker) which means that even opening it or using Mark All as Read won’t affect its state, until you decide to manually mark it. This is highly useful for posts that you want to come back to later on.

Its added benefit is that the swipe to mark gestures can be allowed in both the article list and the article view, which means that you can easily decide what you want to do with a post while reading it without having to click for menus. NewsRob also allows you to switch the next or previous article with the volume buttons, and can be set to vibrate when you reach the top or bottom of a list so you don’t keep pressing expecting something to happen.

gReader allows you to manually assign different functions for swiping left-to-right and right-to-left: read/unread, star/unstar and save/unsave. However, these gestures only work in the article list, not also inside the article view, where they are replaced by onscreen actions and menu options. The volume buttons can also be used to either switch articles like in NewsRob or to scroll up and down inside the article.

Winner: NewsRob. Although less customizable, NewsRob has more controls and works better.

Synchronisation

NewsRob allows you to synchronize all articles or just the unread ones, automatically or manually, and to even restrict it to only “newsrob” folder inside your Google Reader (in case you do not want all your news on your phone). However, it also limits you to a maximum of 2,000 articles in the reading list, and 200 in the starred list – a letdown for those who want access to many of their starred items. As for offline use, NewsRob can download articles for you to read based on connectivity (enabled, disabled, or WiFi-only) and on format (article only, article + image, article + image + simplified webpage).

gReader is quite similar in this aspect, with the main difference being that you can go over 4,000 articles and even select an “all” option that doesn’t limit you at all, no matter the number of unread items in your lists. The one main attraction of gReader is that it can also handle audio and video podcasts.

Synchronization settings on Newsrob (left) and gReader (right)

Synchronization settings on Newsrob (left) and gReader (right)

Winner: gReader. The mere fact that it can also work with podcasts makes it stand out.

Speed

I can only comment based on my experience with the Desire Z. With over 1500 articles, NewsRob is quite surprisingly fast, especially the swiping gestures for marking articles as read/unread.

By comparison, gReader is slow, quite painfully so, and there’s a lag of almost five seconds between the moment I do any swipe gesture and it registering. I had this issue on the MIUI ROM, which I thought was the culprit, but even after switching back to CM7.1, gReader still lags miserably. However, I’ve heard great comments about it from other users with faster processors, so my only advice would be to try the free version on your phone before committing to the full version.

Winner: NewsRob. It is optimized to run well, even on older and slower hardware.

Added Bonuses

Both applications allow you to sort articles by newest or oldest, change the text size, display the article list with snippets of text and an image thumbnail, let you unsubscribe from a feed or subscribe to a new one. Both have a white and a black theme to suit your needs.

NewsRob’s coolest option is the Manage Feed menu which lets you specify on a per-feed basis the download format, the display format, notifications, JavaScript, and images’ fit-to-width. I have been using the download format option, for example, to ask NewsRob to get the simplified webpage of some feeds (which are truncated RSS) by default, so that I can instantly read them, even when offline, instead of waiting for the full page to load.

gReader also offers this feed management option, but there are lots of other added bonuses in it:

  • a dual mode in landscape that shows the folder and the article list
  • a dashboard view for articles instead of the regular list view, with image thumbnails and the title at the bottom of each.
  • a fullscreen mode that removes the notification bar on Android and lets you enjoy those few additional pixels.
  • a search function that only works in list view and lets you search the title and content of articles.
  • a series of widgets that display your latest feeds
  • a customization for the Share menu, that lets you specify whether you want the share the article title, URL address, and/or snippet.
  • an option to move a feed to another folder.
gReader's landscape dualscreen view

gReader's landscape dualscreen view

Winner: gReader. There’s just too much to modify and use in it.

Conclusion

It’s a 4-3 win for gReader thanks to its oodles of functions. However, this will come down to personal preference, as NewsRob offers a couple of exclusive features such as the “keep unread” which comes in quite handy, depending on how you use Google Reader.

Personally, I had to completely overlook gReader because of its slow performance for swiping articles as read/unread on my Desire Z. However, I will come back to it when I switch to better hardware, as I’m pretty certain it’ll function well and offer a ton of added functionality.


  • http://guiasapple.com SrTapir

    Great article!

    I’ve been using iOS for a long time, now I’m a totally convinced Android user, I’ve replaced almost all my apps with a good alternates on Android, but I’m still missing a good replacement for Reeder and a good RSS Reader for Android, gReader is still painfuly slow in a Galaxy Nexus..

    IOs has a good Google Reader RSS apps, how I miss some of them.

    I’ll continue with the serch and will try NewsRob, I’m crossing my fingers.

    • http://www.ritaelkhoury.com/ Rita El Khoury

      I used Reeder for months on my iPod Touch before getting to Android, and personally I found NewsRob to be the closest to Reeder, in terms of speed and getting aside to let you enjoy the content. Of course Reeder’s UI is much more beautiful, but NewsRob is as clean and as simple as they get, without missing on the important features.

  • Umberto

    Have you guys tried Feedly?? It’s pretty good, has a nice Chrome/Firefox extension and it’s full of features and completely free.
    Alternatively I’d suggest d7 Reader, which has both a free and a paid app.

    • http://ashish.bogawat.com Ashish Bogawat

      +1 for Feedly. The Chrome version of Feedly has been consistently deteriorating as far as my experience goes, but the mobile version is still my favorite feed reader on the phone.

    • http://www.ritaelkhoury.com/ Rita El Khoury

      Last time I tried it Feedly didn’t support offline caching with AND without images, and relied a lot on having a super fast connection and being online all the time. That alone knocked it out of this showdown, because it lacks many of the basic features a complete Google Reader client should have.

      • http://ashish.bogawat.com Ashish Bogawat

        True, it’s not the most feature-packed of the lot, but what keeps me with Feedly is that it’s list view is better than any other out there. Also, I often like to mark things as read without bothering to open them if the topic doesn’t interest me. With feedly it’s a matter of tapping to the right side of the item in the list and you’re done. Small touches like these that keep me engaged.

        On a side note though, Rita, our app choices seem to be exercises in contrast in a lot of cases. :-)

        • http://www.ritaelkhoury.com/ Rita El Khoury

          Hahaha, Ashish yeah, we can’t seem to agree, but you know this is what I love about Android: choices for everyone. And you can try free versions of apps, see what fits, go buy it or try something else.
          Oh, and Newsrob has this sweet flick on an item to mark as read, maybe not as simple as a tap, but works flawlessly. Flick the other way and it “keeps it unread”. Without ever opening for the content.

  • http://www.gregschier.com/ Gregory Schier

    GReader does have “keep unread.” When you are viewing an article, if you check the box at the top right it won’t mark the article as “read” when you move to the next one. :) :)

    • http://www.ritaelkhoury.com/ Rita El Khoury

      That’s Mark Unread, not Keep Unread. Keep Unread doesn’t mark the article as read even if you open it and close it several times later, and doesn’t mark it as read if you click “mark all as read”. It just stays unread until you specifically re-mark it as read.
      Newsrob supports both: mark unread and keep unread. gReader only has mark unread.

  • Maikel

    You really should have a look at GoodNews. It is one heck of an RSS Reader.
    It has a beautiful interface and is filled with features.

  • Azzoth

    I tried avery Reader apps and my favorite is Feedly. gReader is good too but the design of Feedly is really cool. I use it on PC too.

  • http://ilicco.com ilicco

    the ability to download a full article via, instapaper, readability or the google mobile transcoder, and have those pages viewable offline makes NewsRob the clear winner for me :)

  • Scott

    What a great analysis, thank you Rita!

  • eddie

    Greader does have “keep unread”. You can find it in Settings>Cache>Keep unread.

    • http://www.ritaelkhoury.com/ Rita El Khoury

      It didn’t work at first the same way that NewsRob’ did, but recently it has been updated to do so.

  • J

    For greader you can also disable swiping navigation in the reader preferences to disable the side the side scroll between articles.

    • http://www.ritaelkhoury.com/ Rita El Khoury

      It was added in a newer version than the one reviewed here. gReader is being updated a lot more frequently than NewsRob, which means it has caught up on it in several areas where it once lagged.

  • Tom

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together Rita, its a really good analysis

    • http://www.ritaelkhoury.com/ Rita El Khoury

      You’re welcome :)

  • Max

    In my opinion gReader is better in every category.
    on my SGS2 it runs smooth.

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