Cost of the app: FREE
Video introduction to Google Currents -
It seems like aggregated magazine apps are all the rage these days. Due to the size of the screen these magazine apps were launched exclusively for iPad users. First, it was Flipboard then Zite, then AOL’s Editions and then Yahoo!’s LiveStand.
Trying to make a huge push in mobile and social applications, how can Google remain behind? Google released Google Currents, a magazine app for iOS and Android devices a couple of days ago without any publicity. I was so excited about this app that while lying in bed and ready to sleep I came across a tweet that said that Google had released Google Currents.
Without any further ado, I went to the app store on my extremely slow network and downloaded the app. It’s around 10 MB in size but I fell asleep while downloading it. After getting up, the first thing I did was to try my hands on Google Currents.
Let’s see the screenshots before we go any further. The iPhone screenshots are from when you first open the app.
1. The first screen tells you that it provides free magazines for your smartphones and tablets with a focus on you.
2. Google has included a few magazines for free by default to get you up and running. You can either touch the icons to open or add more magazines.
3. Trending topics – you can’t be social without including people, right? Google Currents tells you what is being read by other readers around the world with Trending tab.
4. Learn about the controls. While some of the controls are self-explanatory, Google could have done a better job providing standard icons for sharing and sync.
5. You’re ready to roll. This ends the getting started phase of Google Currents. Click done to enter the app.
Now, whenever Google releases something I have high hopes from them. I’m almost always certain that they’re going to raise the bar in design, aesthetics and it’s trademark – speed. I was expecting something that would completely replace my news & magazine apps but I was sorely disappointed.
The app is slow – When you click an article on your phone you want it to load instantly. No exceptions. You just don’t have the patience to wait 15 seconds before you see any word of it. Google Currents downloads the whole magazine before you can read a word. While it is certainly good for offline reading there should be a setting whereby a user can toggle between offline & online reading.
The controls are confusing – The app just doesn’t feel intuitive. On some screens you can’t see the home icon. On some there’s this list of articles and 3 controls. Sometimes the app starts syncing all by itself.
The design is not good enough for phone reading – Scrolling is not comfortable on a smartphone. I though Google knew that. I would like to give brownie points to Flipboard which has rather successfully implemented the “card deck” mechanism to scroll ( Flipboard review coming soon!). I’m yet to try my hands on the iPad version of the app so I can’t say if this is just the phone thing.
No custom font and size – I know the font Google has chosen is acceptable but still it would be better to have a choice of fonts if only for size. Zite gets fonts and font sizes very well.
There are a few hundred magazines and according to Google all are free. I don’t know if it will be applicable in the near future but right now the collection of magazines is better than most apps out there.
Frankly, it feels like Google was desperate to launch an app and it quickly locked a few developers in a room on a condition that they’ll be released only after finishing an app.
I could have stuck with Google Currents if there were enough reasons to. But right now – I’d wait for improvements for Google Currents before deleting my magazine apps.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5