Google Currents – review of the elegant News Aggregation Android app
Apr 23, 2012 12:46 PM –
Google Currents is the still-relatively-new news app that aggregates free news resources into a slick and well presented reader. Recently made available worldwide, instead of only being available in the U.S. (if only they’d do the same with Google Music), it’s high time for a proper review.
Tested on: HTC One X
Pros & Cons:
- Easy to search new content!
- Great interface!
- Offline reading!
- Plenty of customisation features!
- Experience can occasionally be sporadic depending on whether full articles are uploaded or not. Sometimes you get directed to your browser to view the whole piece. This more often occurs in non-supported RSS feeds.
- Only current news, no means to really explore a source for older articles.
I tried out Google Currents when it first came out and only available to the U.S. Despite living in the U.K., I managed to download it from Google Play using one of those enabling apps, I think it was Market Unlocker. My first impression was quite mixed. I was annoyed that, like Google Music, it was only supported in the U.S. and it was a little glitchy and contained plenty of lag. One thing that did stand out though was the design and relative ease-of-use. It felt good, which made me want to use it more.
Skip forward a few months and it’s now made its way to the shore of my own country. With some stability updates and removal of lag (mostly), plus a few tweaks here and there, it was suddenly an app that might make you actually put aside the likes of Taptu, Pulse or individual news apps such as The Guardian, or Channel 4 News. Google Currents is massively intuitive and delivers a very polished experience. Reading stories is a breeze, as is finding new sources and exploring those.
There are lots of features I could talk extensively about, but I’ll select the ones that really stand out to me. For more goodies, just download the app yourself and check it out! Firstly I really love the presentation. Stories are really easy to read and the screens are bright and perfectly formatted. In-story videos link seamlessly to YouTube and viewing picture galleries is a great experience. You can flick from page to page (sideways- *shucks* like a REAL newspaper!) and everything feels intuitive and natural.
Watch on Mobile
Content is quickly uploaded and updated so you can save plenty of stuff for offline reading if need be. This could still be done incorrectly if it wasn’t for the syncing options which allows you to sync in the background, change the sync frequency and choose whether to sync images or just text. You can select to only upload new content while on Wi-Fi or even only when charging. The control Google Currents gives you in this regard means it will work for people who perhaps only have minimal access to data. Alternatively you can have it updating every hour on the hour high-res images and all; if your data plan is that good! For the perfect commuter setting, just get Google Currents to update every morning over Wi-Fi before you leave your house and you can guarantee all the content you need is right there for your journey.
Like Google+ and Twitter, Google Currents has embraced the whole idea of ‘Trending‘. This section gives you the most up-to-date and popular news stories from all their various sources. So, if you need a quick blast of what’s going on in the world and what people are talking about, this can give you a quick overview.
OK, so Google Currents isn’t perfect. It really does imply ‘current’ in that you can’t access older stories. You can’t save or ‘favourite’ stories for later reading- for that you’d need something like Pocket (formerly ReadItLater Pro). You sadly can’t always delve into a publication with too much depth, the app only deals with the big ‘current’ stories from that particular source. In most cases this is fine, but if you want a column by a specific journalist this is bit trickier to come by- instead you’d have to add this independently via usual RSS methods.
Some stories are presented as snippets and you have to visit the source website to read more. In trending, a story headline might appear but then the search doesn’t include that headline, instead covering a broader trending theme. This altogether means, if you use the app a lot, and access RSS feeds a great deal, your encounters can feel bit sporadic at times. I should stress though, if you stick with the supported Google Currents titles, and there are loads to choose from, this doesn’t really occur and it’s just a great experience.
Google Currents – Library front page
Google Currents – Story list
Google Currents – In-story view
Google Currents – Individual Source
Google Currents – Google blog
Google Currents – Adjust text size
Google Currents – Language settings
Google Currents – Settings
Google Currents is great for staying up to date with the latest stories from your favourite (well, some of your favourite) news sources. The ability to sync whenever you like is great and there are loads of options for sharing.
Ease of Use:
Very easy. I think you can sometimes get a little lost and a few of the icons are not clearly labelled, but this aside general usage and reading, syncing, settings and exploration are all highly intuitive and fun to play with.
It’s something you would certainly use on a daily basis if you want to keep up to date, but then you might use it less frequently if the sources you prefer do not publish regularly. I guess what I’m saying is here is that it’s really up to you.
The interface is sublime; blending bright pages with readable text. I really like the menu and settings screens which forgo the usual Androidesque preferences pages and instead gives you a small pop-up window of options without making it feel like you’re leaving the page you’re on. Really neat.