It seems like eons ago that I would start my work day with a cup of coffee and a newspaper to get my daily news fix. I still do it but with a slight difference: my Android phone has replaced the newspaper. So I thought, why not write about my experience in exploring all the amazing news Apps in the Android Market? I have compiled a list of news reader apps that have both minimal and elegant user interfaces, to share my views with you and some useful suggestions with App developers.
Many Android developers do not give enough attention to user interface and fail miserably in terms of quality of design and usability features. This article will be more than just a round up and highlight the key features that will help every news based App to become a success. I have omitted some Apps previously reviewed on this site like News Republic and Read it later Pro.
Now, without further ado, the countdown starts:
1. Feedly (Free)
Feedly is obviously the number one on this list as it clearly stands out from the crowd by its “out of the box” layout with minimal text based article listings and cute little icons. Powered by Google Reader, Twitter, Instapaper and Read It Later, it is clearly the best news feed reader out there.
Feedly comes in both light and dark versions. The opening page has nice big title and lots of white space that is pleasing to the eye. When you tap the header bar you get a nice scrolling options drop down menu with a pre-populated list of useful RSS feed sources. If you sign in to Google Reader then this list will be replaced by your Google Reader settings.
I am really digging the minimal style of article lists with thumbnails. The icons in the top bar are self explanatory and users have no difficulty in using them. Articles are displayed with minimal text based layout by default but users can always switch to web view.
The image gallery is excellent and has two styles depending on the source feed with titles overlaid. I have checked various multimedia RSS feeds and found the experience exhilarating. Vimeo or Youtube feeds work the best.
2. Pulse News (Free)
Our close runner up to the top position is Pulse News App. True to its description, Pulse takes your favorite websites (including Facebook) and transforms them into a colorful and interactive mosaic. It is also my favorite App for daily use. The developers clearly made a remarkable feat by redefining the “listview” for articles; instead of a vertical scrolling list we find a very convenient horizontal scrolling news feed with thumbnails. The smooth transitions and animated swipes make it an enjoyable experience.
When you first open the Pulse News App, you will find an elegant handwritten instructions panel to add source feeds. The latest update comes with five main pages (1) or containers to hold the news feeds. Just like Feedly there is a pre-populated list of sources. For example when you click on Technology (2) from the Top page it will instantly add “Top Stories in Technology” to that page (3). You can swipe left or right on each row (4) to see current and previous articles. Clicking on the thumbnail will move the entire row down, exposing the article view.
Settings like refresh all (1) and manage sources (2) makes your life easier to update all source news feeds in one click, delete a feed (3) and rearrange feed rows (4) by clicking and dragging up or down within each page.
Advanced options like background updates, auto-update on wifi only (1) and stored login information for facebook and twitter (2) lets you share each individual article to your social network easily and save some 3G data usage. In contrast to Feedly there is clear link in the top to switch between text and web views (3) and a nicer sharing icon tray (4).
Note to developer: Some user reviews complain about performance issues in certain phone models.
3. CNN (Free)
CNN for Android Phone is definitely a smarter, sleeker way to experience a world of news and insights. I was really impressed by the dark theme and multimedia content (2). If you are someone who wants breaking news with video content then this App is a must to download. The dashboard icon (1) is a useful shortcut to headlines (3), iReport (4) and other options.
I like the white dots (2) in the bottom that show the navigation for horizontal swiping. There are icons in the top for dashboard and full article (1). Each article has a large thumbnail filling the screen (3) and related topics (4) highlighted below the title.
The best feature is the iReport (1) which lets users submit their own news content to CNN using their Android phone. Amateur journalists will love this feature as they can now take a snapshot or live video and submit it immediately.
You can also watch video clips from related stories; the video quality is very good.
4. CNET (Free)
CNET News app delivers award-winning coverage of the consumer technology world and a must download for every tech savvy person out there. The best features are image galleries and video content. The bad part is many users complain that there are too many ads. But nevertheless it is a well designed app and deserves to be on this list.
5. MSNBC (Free)
MSNBC is a very popular news source, backed by Microsoft, with rich multimedia content. The MSNBC app for Android meets our expectations and provide diverse and engaging articles and related videos. I really love the flower petal (or is it two peacocks?) navigation to various sections of the news.
The Zumobi Network has many similar apps in the Android Market and worth checking it out. My only complain is the huge logo in the bottom and the amount of ads. This app made this list purely because of the aesthetics and nice icons. For controlling instant updates you need to download another app called Airmail which i think is an unnecessary step.
Note to developer: Please integrate the Airmail feature into the app instead of supplying it as a separate download
6. USA Today (Free)
I have been using USA Today since the Android 1.5 days as it was the only one that would work in those ancient versions. It is very useful for latest US News, Sports, Weather, Pictures and Snapshots.
7. HuffingtonPost (Free)
We all love HuffingtonPost.com and this app is definitely worth checking out. It has been well designed with clean interface and different color palettes for various sections of the app. Although this app has some issues running on certain phone models it is definitely a good one to have if it works on yours. Some important features are the search function, the ability to download all articles for offline reading, and the landscape mode. I have checked the video content and it works in most cases.
8. NPR News (Free)
I usually listen to Shoutcast for online radio. A friend suggested NPR News as an alternative and I got hooked into it. Its like a portable NPR and public radio station player for your Android. I like the clean interface and search options using your current GPS location. You can listen to live streaming radio all day (works great on wifi), and even on the move, provided you have an unlimited data plan.
Note to developer: Please include options to disable GPS and exit the menu.
9. Yahoo News (Free)
I have Yahoo as my homepage on the desktop. So I wanted to check out the Yahoo News App for Android… and was a little disappointed actually. I liked the clean minimal layout but don’t we expect more from Yahoo? Yahoo search is integrated and the content is fantastic. You can probably use the browser to visit the mobile website of Yahoo instead of downloading this app, but the app will save you a lot on loading time and data usage.
10. Taptu (Free)
I was saving the best for the last entry in this list. Taptu is a relatively unknown (at least to me) news app; I happened to find it while researching for this article. It caught my attention because the layout was similar to Pulse News and my initial thought was that someone cloned Pulse. But I have to admit that it is so much better than Pulse. First of all it has both light and dark themes and works great in both orientations. Most significantly it is faster than Pulse and has a better search for RSS feeds.
Adding sources, managing source feeds and scrolling through content are pretty much similar to Pulse. The best part is it works great on tablets (Honeycomb) too. Read articles will not have a shadow which is a really neat and subtle user interface. It also supports multiple accounts for sharing articles on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. The Streamstudio option lets you delete, rearrange, and merge feeds. If you like Pulse then I am sure you will love Taptu.
This list is just a few of the Apps that I have downloaded and tested it myself on a Motorola Cliq2 running Android 2.2. I would encourage our readers to explore all the nice Apps in Android Market and find the ones that best suit their needs. I have left out the NYTimes app since it did not work in my phone, but it is worth checking out.
Take Home Notes for Developers:
So what are the 10 best things you can do to improve your nest news based app?
- Go for minimal and elegant user interface
- Provide options for offline reading
- Dark and Light Themes
- Auto update on Wi-Fi only for 3G data conscious users
- Easy to add and manage news source
- Social sharing options
- Support for multimedia content
- Typography (use nice fonts and lots of white space)
- Share options should also link to default Android share settings like email and sms
- Go slow on the ads and maximize screen real estate
That’s it folks. If you would like to add to this list of minimal and elegant news reader apps then please comment below.