There’s a small list of applications that I use every day on my Android devices and one of my favorites is Google Reader. I use Google Reader to follow the latest news and developments in the technology sectors. It’s highly configurable, it synchronizes rather than copies my news stories, it’s fast and has worked well on everything I’ve tried it on, which is some thing the beautiful Google Currents cannot claim. Reader is available free from the Google Play Store.
Google Reader was designed to provide users with what the designer calls a “river of news.” You subscribe to news feeds and then the service downloads and shows you articles. If you have multiple devices, or use the browser, when you mark an article as read on one, it is reflected across your other devices. You can set up and control the service straight from your Android device or use your desktop browser.
Because this is a Google service and app, everything integrates beautifully into the existing Google Account on your device. You do not need another account to set up and may enable or disable AutoSync from the Settings, Accounts & Sync menu. Articles may be automatically pushed to the device using Google sync, but data usage is minimal unless you read an item as images are not downloaded unless needed. In many respects, Google Reader works like Gmail and if you are worried about data usage or battery life, you can disable Reader from the Google account and manually synchronize when you need to.
To set up the Google Reader app we first need to add one or more subscriptions. Simply tap “add subscriptions” or “subscribe,” depending on the device. From this screen, you search what you are looking for and Google Reader produces a list of matching terms. Tapping on one of these shows you a preview of the feed, which you can decide to add or not.
Once you have added a number of subscriptions, it’s time to start reading your news! Google Reader shows you an All Items folder, which is your combined feed. You also have the Starred Items, ideal for those articles you want to read later. And if you want, you can drill down into each individual news feed, which is useful if you don’t use labels. Each view shows you the headline and the source and from here. You can star articles straight from this screen, very useful if you are in a hurry and see an article you want to digest later. Or you can tap onto an article and it takes you to the article.
Google Reader automatically downloads article contents but for most of my subscriptions, the feed only show the first couple of paragraphs and an image or two, with a link to visit the full article. If the host feed contains adverts you also see these too. Google Reader formats articles to fit the screen and this works very well, with adverts typically ending up at the bottom of the page.
Writing of the bottom of the page, Google Reader supports labels, just like Gmail. You can use labels to filter items or set up categories, which makes it easy to differentiate between types of news article. You might want to set up research, current events, politics and local news, for example, then only view the different feeds depending on what you are doing.
One of the real strengths of Android is how easy it is to share information with other applications and services, ultimately to share with other people. It should be no surprise that Google Reader supports Androids share service, making it very easy to send articles to contacts. I would add that when you use the built-in Messaging application on my HTC One V, by default the app sends your article as a MMS, which could incur a charge. The fix to this is to delete the message title.