This has been a very busy week and bad news is that it is not over yet. There was the Le Web where Eric Schmidt showed of Android 4.0 (ICS) on the Nexus S and on the tablet, Twitter came out with a new UI for Android, iOS and web, also updated the Desktop UI, we also saw the Facebook app for Android UI changes. Yup, have been busy. We also saw the launch of the famous Flipboard app on the iPhone and the iPad which lets you see the regular news feeds in form of magazines with rich text formatting and good UI. Just last night, Google uploaded Google Currents to the Android market and the Apple App store which seems to be Google’s answer to Flipboard. Let’s look a bit closely to this application.
First of all I was disappointed when I came to know that this application is available only in the U.S for now. With Le Web going on, I thought at least Google will make it available in Europe, also Hugo Barra who was present at the Le Web demonstration did not show any peek or give hints of this new application they have been working on. Anyway, leaving that aside I managed to download the application by spoofing my Android market to believe I am from the U.S. As soon as I finished downloading I extracted the APK and uploaded it for all the people in any country to download. You will be able to find the link to download this application at the end of this post.
At first I used it on my tablet, when I opened the application it asked me to which Google account all the data should be synced, as soon as you select your preferred account it takes you to a window which gives you tips about how to use and go about with the application, you can swipe past each tip which is very helpful for a first time user. As soon as that window is closed you are greeted by a neat UI with white background and a few websites already synced like Forbes and 500px which are being downloaded to the right. To the left we can see large images with it’s title in the bottom, these are the various articles or posts from the websites you have subscribed to in the library and you can go to the p0st you are interested in just by clicking on it.
Google Currents: Layout
There are are basically two views, one is where you can find the websites you have subscribed to and it is called as the “Library“. If you have subscribed to many websites then you can just swipe to the left to go onto the next page. The second view is “Trending“, this shows you the trending news all around the world whether you have subscribed to that website or not. To view this just click on Trending besides Library on the left pane. Here you will also be able to add more trends, if you are interested in science and technology then you can add that or if you would also want to know more about entertainment then you can add that too by selecting “Add more Trends” at the bottom of the left pane. One thing that I did not like about trends is that it shows me articles from the websites I have not subscribed to but I cannot open it until I subscribe to that website, which means I will not be able to view that single article until I have downloaded the entire content on the website which is a bit irritating. But I do love the option to look at what the user generated trends are, all about the posts and various stories related to a particular topic.
How to subscribe to new websites
It is very easy to subscribe to new website, just click on Add more at the end of the page in Library and it will take you to a window where in the left you have an option to select the category you are looking for like Science & Technology, Lifestyle, Entertainment, etc and to the right you have the websites which belong to that category and you can subscribe to them by pressing Add for free. I think all of these websites currently are available to download for free, but in the future there might be paid magazines too. You can also add trends to your trending list by pressing the options besides Library on the top. One good thing I found here is that you can also add websites from your Google Reader, in short this app syncs with Google reader too. One thing I found weird is we can also subscribe to the Google+ account of people like Robert Scoble, Guy Kawasaki, etc. If you subscribe to this people then you will be able to check out there Google+ posts from inside the application, though currently there are very few people to subscribe to.
Update: If you are getting error messages like “An unknown error while searching for Editions” while trying to sync with Google Reader, all you need to do is, Go to Google Reader -> Manage Subscriptions and then delete/rename any ‘Untitled Subscriptions’ [Credit: cdcooperuk]
To the bottom you will find a small bar which has settings button to the extreme left, share and search button, it also shows you which website it is currently syncing. In settings you will be able to change the accounts which is currently synced too, you can change the text size, change the sync settings to change battery when on WiFi and while charging, and you can also give feedback, it is just a small pop up. You can start/stop the syncing by pressing the sync button which is to the right of the settings button. To the left most you have the share button and the search button where you will be able to search any article inside your library.
Let’s take a look what happens when you click on any website:
Once you click on a website you get a whole new interface with options to choose view articles of various categories like Technology, news, videos, but this is limited to some of the websites whom Google has been working with, if you have subscribed to a normal website then it will show the normal articles in a magazine style which when pressed will open the entire article. Here we can also see that the options in the bottom bar has been changed too, we can see back button, and besides it there is a book shaped button which when pressed opens up all the articles on that particular website and you can navigate to the article you want from there itself, what I found useful is that we can even search from inside that pane. You also have the home option which when pressed will take you to the main window of the application, to the right you have the share button and besides you have the button to view the next page.
A look at the articles:
Once you click on any article it shows you the article nicely formatted with pictures and title in bold. I would love to read any article in this format though I wish the next page button, actually all the buttons at the bottom to be a bit bigger. well if the article is too long then at the bottom before the bar there will be an indicator which will show how many pages there are in total and on which page you are which is very useful, you can go through these pages by just swiping, once the article is finished you can just swipe to go to the next article. It is easy to share these articles just by pressing the share button and choosing which application to share. You can also open the all articles view to choose the next article or just click on home to go back to the main window.
Google currents on phone
Google Currents on phone has a similar interface and gestures and the buttons go very well due to the size of the display. One thing I liked about the phone application is that it automatically synced all my subscribed websites from the tablet to the phone as soon as I selected my account. This feature can be useful to a lot of people and personally I loved it. But if you have low internal memory and if you have subscribed to many websites then this can be a problem as Google currents stores the data and images of these websites internally if you have enabled sync images for offline use then there will be loads of data coming your way and your device could run out of space.
The User Interface of Google currents looks brilliant but I think that Google updated this app in a hurry to compete with Flipboard. It looks like a half baked app, no wonder it is only being pushed in the U.S. It is not ready for everyone to use.
- Beautiful User Interface
- Easy to share and navigate
- Good method to view random articles and trending topics
- Syncing with Google reader and Google accounts on various devices
- Easy to use on a whole
- Good optimization for tablets and phones
- Pixelated images on some articles
- Performance issues and lack of smoothness (A bit choppy sometimes)
- Slow in loading
- No method to stack websites in same category
- Can’t read a single article in trends unless subscribed to that website
- Some people have reported that they are thrown an error messages: “An unknown error while searching for Editions” when they try to sync with Google Reader (Worked fine for me)
This is just the initial look at this application, it was just made available yesterday and not globally. I am hoping that Google’s update is on it’s way and will reach us anytime soon. Google currents is available on Android phones and tablets, it is also available on the iPad and the iPhone.
If you are in the U.S you can look for the app in Android market or click here.
If you are outside the U.S you can download the app from here.
If you are using an apple device you can look at it over here or download it from the iTunes.
Note: You can subscribe to Technically Personal on Google Currents.