Android app review: Feedly

POST 2: Feedly: Your answer to Google Reader?

When Google announced it was shutting down its wildly popular Reader RSS aggregator on July 1, the web’s community of power browsers cried out. In the past few years, the service had become so popular that it became nearly eponymous with RSS.

Still, all is not lost for people who rely on RSS feeds to bring them quick headlines from a range of sites. Probably the most notable and popular is Feedly, which gained more than 500,000 new users within 48 hours of Google’s announcement to shut down Reader.

While Feedly isn’t a direct replacement to Google Reader and varies from the Mountain View news aggregator in a variety of ways, it is a worthy one, not least of which because of its Android app.

Upon downloading, users can set up Feedly pretty simply by logging in with their Google Reader account. Once Feedly is authorized, the app more or less mirrors your content in Google Reader, complete with folders and unread article counts. If you’re coming to Feedly fresh, you can add RSS feeds by clicking the search bar on the top right of the screen and adding feeds, and sorting them into categories you define.

Somewhat jarringly, Feedly ditches Reader’s spartan look for a colorful, image-intensive magazine look, somewhat similar to Google Currents or Flipboard. From any screen, swiping down reveals the next page of articles, while swiping to the right reveals a pane where you can switch between feeds and add new content. The setup is actually pretty good for displaying a lot of content in an attractive, easy to navigate format, and is light years ahead of the now-discontinued Google Reader app for Android, which required multiple taps to switch between feeds and didn’t have anywhere near Feedly’s polish.

A tap on any article will bring you to a preview page for any given article. Like most RSS readers, what you get here in the way of content is a bit of a mixed bag. Some sites (such as The Next Web) feature full text from articles, while others might just reveal a first line of text. Either way, a button below the article preview allows users to read a story in a web page without leaving the app. The article preview page also features all the requisite sharing icons for social networks, email and other reading services like Pocket. Readers can also save an article to read later within Feedly or tag any story with a category. Your articles read counts and tags will also sync with Google Reader and Feedly’s web apps.

The whole experience of browsing and reading your content is pretty easy and intuitive, but Feedly’s Android app is not without its flaws. For starters, the attractive, blog-style layout can be a little bit of a pain when you are trying to skim quickly for headlines. You can only see about five articles per page without having to swipe, and there’s no way to change the layout to view just headlines. Also, it’s a little bit too easy to mark pages of stories as “read.” An accidental swipe to the right marks entire pages of content as read, so if you like to make sure you’ve read every article, you’ll have to be aware of what your thumb is doing at all times. They’re both small shortcomings, but they can be a little bit frustrating at first.

Still, Feedly is probably the best alternative to Google Reader in terms of its feature set, layout and ease of migration. Feedly’s layout and design style will probably take some getting used to if you’ve been using Google Reader for the last couple of years, but in terms of sheer features and ease-of-use, it’s the best choice. Once you get used to the new look, you might find that you won’t even miss Google Reader once it is put out to pasture July 1.