RSS, which means Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary depending on who you ask, is a popular way to receive news updates from your favorite websites. You can pick and choose which updates you want and they’re amalgamated into a central “inbox” of sorts, allowing you to read your news at your convenience. With smartphones, you can now do all of this through apps.
The convenience of being able to read your selected news sources from anywhere (e.g., waiting in line, when you’re taking public transit, when you’re bored, etc.) should not be underestimated. However, finding the right app for your needs is the best way to maximize your news-reading enjoyment.
Here are 5 of the best FREE news reader apps you can use on Android devices.
Pulse News [No Longer Available]
What Is It? Highly lauded by publications like TechCrunch and Fortune Magazine, Pulse News is one of the most popular RSS solutions for Android devices. It’s been around for a while and consequently has a ton of features, making it one of the best all-in-one feed and news readers.
The Pros: Pulse News has a beautiful interface that lets you focus on the content at hand. Browsing through multiple articles is easy and everything about the app just feels smooth. You can save articles to be read later, sync for offline reading, discover new publishers, and easily share articles through social media.
The Cons: Some of the settings in Pulse News could use work. Font control is a big complaint as you have to resize the font for each article you read; there is no master font control. Depending on the model of your device, some pages and articles may cause the app to crash.
Overall: There’s a reason why Pulse News has over 10 million installs: it does its job. The small hiccups here and there may frustrate you from time to time, but if you can handle that, this app is a fantastic all-in-one news reader.
What Is It? News360 is a news aggregator that pulls stories from over 20,000 sources of news. But on top of just the news, News360 also provides detailed background information through dossiers on the companies and people that make the news, allowing you to see each event from all angles.
The Pros: This app delivers tons of news stories from around the world that can be personalized based on your interests and location through its complex algorithms. News topics range from politics to culture to technology and more. The dossiers in particular are impressive.
The Cons: While the content is good, the presentation has a few flaws. Sorting doesn’t work correctly all the time, which can be a nuisance. Sharing an article links to the News360 cover of it, not the source article. There are also a few bugs that cause the app to crash at times depending on your device model.
Overall: I love the intent behind News360. Being able to compile news from multiple sources AND being able to read about the biases behind each news source is fantastic. If aesthetic issues won’t get in the way of your news reading, I highly recommend this app.
What Is It? Google Reader is a web-based news aggregator created by, yep, Google. It’s been around for almost a full decade and Google has turned it into something special in that time. It supports Atom and RSS feeds, the two most popular feed protocols. In order to use this app, you’ll need a Google account as this app syncs with it.
The Pros: As with all things Google, the interface is clean and beautiful. Everything is extremely legible, allowing you to consume news articles in peace. The navigation is simple and all of the functions are intuitive; swiping from story to story is about as easy as it gets. This app works well for phones and tablets.
The Cons: It comes with a widget but the widget is a bit buggy. No option for theme control. It isn’t the most impressive or flashy app and it isn’t jam-packed full of neat features. Sometimes it glitches and fails to load an article, but that’s been rare in my experience.
Overall: I love the simplicity and straightforwardness of Google Reader, which is why it is my default reader. If minimalism is what you want, this app will probably suit you. If you want fancy graphics and lots of features, you should look elsewhere.
Google Currents [No Longer Available]
What Is It? If the simplicity of Google Reader isn’t enough for you, maybe Google Currents will satisfy. It operates by offering you “Editions,” which are like different magazines within Currents. Editions are all free and come from a variety of sources and publishers, including Forbes, TechCrunch, PBS, and more.
The Pros: Currents has a useful trending feature that tracks the most popular trends in various categories. Stories are brought straight to you, can be saved for offline reading, and are easily shared to friends and social media. Works on phones and tablets. Can be used to read RSS feeds and synchronizes with your Google account.
The Cons: For a mobile app, Currents uses a bit too much memory for my liking. Unless you have a next generation phone, it’ll be bogged down by its many features. Drains power if you use it frequently. Quite lacking in terms of personalization and customization.
Overall: If you have a powerful phone with long battery life and you like eye candy, you’ll love Currents. But while Currents is a fantastic concept wrapped up in a pretty interface, the power drain and memory footprint will be too much for a lot of users. If that doesn’t bother you, then give it a shot.
Taptu [No Longer Available]
What Is It? Taptu is a self-proclaimed social news feed reader. Its goal is to be the one-stop-app for all of your interests ranging from websites to blogs to social networks. Taptu takes all of them and presents them to you as article streams. Taptu makes it easy to combine multiple news sources of multiple types and view them all in one place.
The Pros: Taptu has their own streams in a number of topics, including news, sports, technology, entertainment, and more. Your streams can be synced across multiple devices. Easily share articles through social media. Import your RSS feeds from Google Reader. Taptu’s widgets give you instant 24/7 access to your streams.
The Cons: Taptu was once completely free, but have since switched to an ad-supported model. Uses a lot of bandwidth due to all the images in social media, but prefetching can be disabled in the settings to lessen the load somewhat.
Overall: Taptu is a great way to bring the modernity of social media right to your device. It looks great, it feels smooth, and it just works. Additionally, the developer of Taptu responds to comments and complaints and quickly pushes out updates for reported bugs.
If you’ve had any experience with these apps, let us know what you think of them. Are they good? Bad? Did they not live up to your expectations? And if there are any other free news-reading Android apps that you know of, please share them with us.
Image Credit: Newspaper Stack Via Shutterstock