Much like Google or Facebook, Wikipedia is an integral part of the online experience. It’s surprising then that despite so many great Android apps, there has not been a decent Wikipedia app so far. Well, all that changes with the new Wikipedia Beta!
As the name suggests, this is still a beta, so there are bound to be a few bugs and glitches, but I haven’t encountered any yet. And unlike most beta apps, this one can be downloaded directly off the Google Play Store and run alongside the current stable Wikipedia app.
So what makes the new version so good? Let’s dive in.
What’s New In Wikipedia Beta
The first thing that strikes you about Wikipedia Beta is how polished and refined it looks. It’s got all the trimmings of a modern, Holo-inspired Android app. And in many ways, it has the soul of the Wikipedia web version that you know and love.
The top of the app has a persistent search bar with auto-updating results to quickly find whatever you are looking for. A little menu option next to the search bar also lets you choose the language you want to use Wikipedia in, and gives you options to bookmark or share the current page.
Like with the web homepage, the app starts you off with a featured article of the day, which is a great way to learn something new on Wikipedia every day. This is followed by items in the news and their corresponding Wikipedia entries.
You can swipe in from the left of the screen to access a new menu bar, which is where you can sign into the app using your Wikipedia account and access your history and bookmarks. There is also the much-loved “Random” button here to take you to a random article on Wikipedia so that you can expand your knowledge.
Either by searching, browsing, or hitting the Random button, once you have found the article you want, it appears to be formatted well for a mobile view, akin to what a browser page looks like on phones. Articles also come with a quick-access index now in the search bar. Tap it and you will get the full index of the article, making navigation much easier than ever before.
Finally, if you are signed in, you can also edit Wikipedia from within the app. This proved to be a little more trouble than it was worth, so I’d suggest sticking to Wikipedia edits on your PC unless it’s an emergency.
The whole app is buttery smooth, from search to browsing to reading, because it is a native Android app this time around. And because of that, it is exactly what Wikipedia for Android should be all about: delivering information quickly!
What’s Missing In Wikipedia Beta
Overall, Wikipedia Beta gets a lot of things right in how you can best make use of the world’s favourite publicly editable encyclopedia. But it’s still not without its faults.
For starters, the new Beta has removed one of the best features of the existing Wikipedia app: saving pages for offline reading. Hopefully the developers will add it by the time the final app is released, but for now, if you want to save any Wikipedia page offline, you will need to use the current stable version of the app.
Also, Wikipedia has still not embraced lightboxes, which means tapping on an image takes you to a new page about that image. On a PC, that isn’t as much of an issue since you can open it in a new tab and switch between the two quickly. On a mobile, at least for me, the experience was much slower and I would have preferred the convenience of a lightbox, like what WikiExplorer provides.
Finally, there is still no support for video, despite third-party Wikipedia extensions for desktop browsers bringing relevant YouTube content.
What Feature Do You Want To See?
Despite these shortcomings, the new Wikipedia Beta for Android is an app that deserves prime position on your smartphone or tablet.
Download: Wikipedia Beta for Android (Free)
Right now, there are a few misses like saving pages offline, but it should only be a matter of time before we see it in this new app. What is the one feature you would like to see in the new Wikipedia app? Make it a good one — you never know if one of the developers is reading your comment!