I really enjoy reading books. I have a Kindle and I use it all the time. But sometimes a book isn’t always what I need. There are times when I have just a couple of minutes to fill, or when I’m somewhat distracted. For those times, a magazine works much better, and while I can read newspapers and magazines on the Kindle, I was intrigued by Zinio which offers paid magazines for Android.
We reviewed Zinio for the iPad some time ago but, while Zinio for Android offers much the same functionality, it feels completely different due to the different (much smaller) screen of a typical smartphone vs. the iPad’s vast expanse of polished glass. Also, I don’t live in the US, so some of the magazines Zinio offers are tricky to get in paper format. Zinio lets me enjoy them in full color without having to go through the trouble of getting them on paper.
The first thing you see when you launch the app is a logon screen. That’s slightly disappointing, because Zinio could easily sync with your Google account. Still, it’s a beautiful screen:
I already have a Zinio account (I used the Zinio website to open it), so I’ll simply sign in. Here’s what you see once you’re signed in:
A nice little tip, behind which hides a long list of magazines for sale:
I didn’t ask for these, by the way. Let’s try Bike magazine. When I tapped it, I got the following warning:
Quite clever, but I’ll stick with my HSPDA connection. And finally, here’s the magazine itself:
Or the cover, at least. The magazine is large, so it does take a while to download (especially if you don’t enable WiFi). You can still browse through it while it’s downloading, but curiously, when I tried it I got mostly ads with lots of missing content pages (it doesn’t load in sequential order, beginning to end). The app shows a handy progress bar while it’s downloading:
Now, here’s what a content page looks like on the phone’s comparatively tiny screen.
In two words: Absolutely unreadable. Fortunately, you can pinch to zoom:
Much better. Sadly, turning the phone over to landscape mode doesn’t make more intelligent use of the wider format:
You basically just get a double spread, which is just as tiny. But when you touch the screen (in both portrait and landscape modes), an important button pops up:
TEXT. That’s right – Zinio can extract just the words from whatever you’re trying to read, and display the article in a format much better suited to the small screen:
Much nicer, indeed. It’s actually similar to Read it Later for Android. There’s no “night mode”, though, so the display may be too bright for late-night reading.
Now, if you want to navigate the magazine, there are two possible views you could use. One is a well-designed table of contents:
And the other is for a more visual reading experience, featuring a thumbnail of each two-page spread:
Using Zinio on a phone’s tiny screen is not like holding a large, glossy magazine. But given the size constraints, the app makes an admirable effort to provide the best reading experience possible. If you like magazines but don’t want to carry one around with you all the time, Zinio can be a great solution.