Anyone who uses Google Reader to follow the news needs to find a replacement within the week. Google is pulling the plug on this perennial service on the first of July. Fear not though, there are replacements for both the client and the backend feed gathering service. We take you through the six best options for your iPhone and iPad.
Feedly has been the most enthusiastic company to take on the mantle of Google Reader. In terms of function versus aesthetics, Feedly takes the most balanced point of all the other apps in this list. Feedly offers several display modes, from a traditional textual list view, to full-on graphical magazine style display of feed items.
Swipe from the left, though, and list of folders is revealed. Traditionally, these are folders imported from Google Reader itself. Overall, Feedly manages to keep the content and structure of Google Reader, but wraps it in a modern and attractive style.
Feedly isn’t perfect though, it lacks certain features that RSS power-users will miss. In particular, if you want to get rid of all feed items that are older than a certain threshold, then you’re out of luck. When marking items as read, Feedly is all or nothing. Similarly, it isn’t possible to reorganize your feeds on the mobile client. You can add and remove content, but that’s it, you cannot change the folder that each feed is in.
It’s worth noting that Feedly has stepped up to replace the backend of Google Reader and isn’t just helping its own client, but is also driving Reeder on iOS as well other clients on other platforms. Additionally, Feedly offers a cloud based reader, where you can organise your content, at http://cloud.feedly.com/. You can check our detailed review of Feedly here.
NewsBlur is a traditional looking news reader with expandable headings containing groups of feeds. Just like Feedly, NewsBlur is offering its own feed gathering backend with an API for other feed reading clients to use. So far though, this API has not enjoyed as much adoption as Feedly’s API.
NewsBlur doesn’t just offer an API – it offers a social network for users to share posts and an automatic recommendation system. You can train NewsBlur based on whole articles or just keywords so that it can give you an automatically curated stream of content. This automation extends to finding people to follow in its social network – it can automatically match your Twitter friends to its user list.
That’s all well, and good, but the user interface can make or break the user experience. NewsBlur’s user interface elements can be somewhat small to hit, and so making use of the app somewhat fiddlier than others in this group.
In its favour, you can move feeds between folders. However, it is another ‘all or nothing’ app when it comes to marking feeds as read.
Feeddler Pro has the look and feel of a built-in iOS app. It was made to be solely a Google Reader client, but since the announced closure of Google Reader, the developer has put several backend services in place as alternative sources, you can read more about them on the developer’s blog.
While Feeddler looks and feels like an in-house iOS app, it also manages to communicate the feel of the Google Reader website, thanks to a section of links to standard Google Reader groups like All, Starred, Shared, and Notes. The latter being a feature only the hardcore of Google Reader power users will appreciate.
Below that, you’ll find a list of all your Google Reader folders. These do not expand when tapped; instead you are taken to a new screen showing all the feeds residing in that folder, accompanied by an option to view “All in Folder”.
Feeddler also has a large amount of integrated cloud services for saving and sharing content. Even an option for Bit.ly so you can share posts with your own custom short domain (e.g. dgil.so).
Feeddler Pro is also the only app in this line up to show an unread count as a widget badge. Depending of your propensity for inbox guilt, that may or may not be a good thing, but you can turn it off.
Reeder also works with a slew of third party cloud services, including the increasingly well-known Buffer. In fact, tap the share icon while reading a post, and the grid of services that appears is quite overwhelming – but in a good way.
The app’s design is much more muted that what you’ll find in Feeddler or NewsBlur, but it has the same traditional layout of feeds contained within folders.
To help readability, Reeder seamlessly integrates with the aptly named Readability service. You can also tweak font size, alignment and line spacing.
Other novel features you’ll find in Reeder is a ‘swipe to favourite’ gesture, and the ability to order posts within a folder by feed or time.
Another default feature I particularly appreciated of Reeder was the confirmation dialog when tapping the button to mark all items as read. I just wish I could mark all items older than a day or so as read and leave the newer items unread.
Flipboard is one of the generation of new curated news readers. Google Reader is, and always has been just a corner of Flipboard which takes its content from many more sources than just Reader. In addition to Google Reader, you can add Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube and more.
Each service appears as a separate section to browse, and you may also subscribe to individual sites and categories.
Drilling down into any of those presents you with Flipboard’s unique user interface design. A gesture based navigation allows you to flip through feeds with a 3D graphics effect that makes it look like you’re flipping through a magazine. It’s certainly pleasing to see the pages flip over as you flick your finger across the screen.
When Google announced the closure of Google Reader, Flipboard quickly responded to say that it would preserve and still serve your Google Reader feeds. Once inside the Google Reader section, starred items and feeds and folders are all synchronised. Additionally, you can share to any of the social networks you’ve already added to your Flipboard account.
We should also mention that Flipboard has created a new feature where you can create your own magazines, which can be shared with the public. Fortunately, you can even curate items from your Google Reader feeds into your custom magazines.
Flipboard represents a new way of consuming news where content is curated for you, rather than by you. It’s a matter of personal taste as to whether this suits you or not. My main criticism of Flipboard is that I often find myself getting lost in the user interface, especially when trying to add new content.
Currents is Google’s new news reading app. It is included in the firmware of contemporary Android devices, but has been made available for iOS too. However, it’s not a direct replacement for Google Reader as there’s no corresponding web service and there’s no API for third party apps to use. There is a web service called Google Currents Producer so that web publishers can control how their content appears in the app.
Currents is another app that tries to curate content for you. It does this in as much as you can add and remove any sources you want, but only from within its own directory of content. As you add them, they are put in their own topic related group (i.e. folder), which you cannot change. The only thing you can adjust is the order in which the feeds are shown in each group.
Fortunately, Google Reader is treated like a source in its own right, and any of your Google Reader subscriptions can be added to a dedicated “Google Reader” group. This is the only way you can add any arbitrary RSS feed. When Google Reader closes, it’s not clear how that will be possible in the future.
Currents attempts to give a simplified user interface that heavily relies upon swiping gestures rather than taps. Sideways takes you between publications and vertical takes you through stories. Once you select an article to read, it is shown in horizontally scrolling pages, rather than a vertically scrolling page. Again, this pattern of gestures can make you feel somewhat vague as to where you are in the application.
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