Last week, I took a look at 3 of the top paid RSS reader applications for Android users. The three apps that I covered, were Press, Reader+, and Amber RSS. After much testing, I still couldn’t pick a winner between Press and Reader+. This week, I’m going to take a look at the top free RSS reader apps, for those who want some free alternatives, that work in similar ways.
The first obvious choice, is Feedly. Feedly was the first replacement service to help those Google Reader users to migrate their services. Before Google Reader went away, Feedly stepped up to the plate, and offered a simple and easy way for users to export the necessary information, and input it into Feedly. This was met with mixed reception, but all in all, Feedly gained 8 Million users after its’ announcement to help out those Google Reader users.Something else that Feedly has done, was allow other applications such as Press, and my iOS favorite, Unread, to import the feeds into the respective application, and use an aggregator to read your news.
Anyways, there are two different ways to get your feeds into Feedly. You can visit their main webpage and begin the organization and addition of feeds, but you can also do everything directly from the Feedly application. Upon starting up Feedly for the first time, there are five different ways to sign up for the services; Google, Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, and Evernote. Once you’ve signed up, via any of those accounts, you can get to adding your favorite websites to Feedly. Now, you it’s not completely necessary for you to sign into Feedly with an account, but I find it easier to sync across multiple applications and devices by linking with an account. It’s extremely easy to add various sites and feeds to Feedly, because all you need to do is, hit the magnifying glass in the top right hand corner, find the site you’re looking for, and voila, you’re done.
You can also organize your various feeds into categories, just like I showed off in the top paid RSS reader apps overview. Once you’ve got your feeds set up the way that you want them, you can start using the beautiful interface that the team at Feedly has put together. Perusing and reading your various feeds is easy and seamless, and you can ever save or share any articles or reviews that you come across to any number of social networks, or read-it-later services. There is also a web interface that the Feedly team has put together, and honestly that is what I used to do the bulk of the organizing of my numerous RSS feeds. Of course, you can grab Feedly via the Play Store widget below, for free.
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Flipboard is one of those RSS feed aggregators that been around for quite some time. Launched in 2010, Flipboard has taken the new reading world by storm, and has since come pre-installed on many Android devices. You may be annoyed at the fact that an application comes preinstalled, but Flipboard may be the ONLY exception to the rule of bloatware. It’s fast, easy to use, and has one of the most beautiful interfaces of any app for either the Android or iOS platforms. There are three different ways to sign up for Flipboard, Google, Facebook, or via an email address of your choice.
Like Feedly, this isn’t necessarily a requirement, but it will help if you want to keep all of your feeds organized, and don’t want to have to re-add them every time you get a new device, or if you flash new ROM’s often. Since I’ve been toying around with the various HTC One M8 ROMs, having an account where all my feeds are synced, has been a real life saver. Just to put it into perspective, I’ve flashed 5 or 6 different ROMs in the last two days. Imagine having to try and find all those sites that you want to keep up with, over and over and over again. Frustration will ensue.
Flipboard was the first, well designed, personal magazine. it stays true to it’s core, and acts like a magazine, in regards to the interaction that you have while reading various feeds. The nice thing about Flipboard is the fact that it pre-populates various feeds for you to check out, from Sports and News, to Technology, and Design. There is also a specific set of feeds named, By Our Readers. This is a populated feed from those who contribute to Flipboard, and even within there, multiple topics can be chosen from. If you find something that you’d like to save, once you’ve found a feed that you want to follow, tap the bookmark icon in the top right hand corner of the page, and you’re done.
Another nice thing about Flipboard is that you don’t just have to follow websites. You can also search for sites or individual people on social networks like Google+ or Twitter. This adds another facet to the world of news reading, if you’re the type that likes constant updates, or breaking news. While searching for specific sites or individuals to follow, Flipboard has built in suggestions into their search functions. For example, if you search just Android, you are presented with a bunch of different Android topics, including populated topics from the Flipboard app itself. The search functionality of Flipboard, really is unparalleled for an application like this, and is really something that everyone should try out. Like everything else featured today, you can get Flipboard for free, via the Play Store widget below.
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LinkedIn Pulse is next up on the list today. Formally known as just Pulse, this RSS aggregator service was purchased by LinkedIn back in 2013, and it caused a lot of head scratching across the interwebs. Unlike Flipboard or Feedly, LinkedIn Pulse requires you to either sign in with your LinkedIn account or with your old Pulse information. When I downloaded Pulse again after the acquisition, I was little upset by that. Not because I don’t understand that you should have a login so that you can keep all your information together, but because I believe that there should still be an option to test drive the app without having to create an account.
Since I hadn’t actually logged into the Pulse services in some time, I just opted to sign in via my LinkedIn account and start fresh. When you log in for the first time, there are some pre-populated lists that you can choose from, or edit. Of course, you can still add new ones if you would like to do so, for a more personalized experience. The overall interface for Pulse is similar to what the app was like before the acquisition, in terms of the blocks of images with the titles in the corners.
Pulling an article up not only allows you to simply read the post, but also allows you to like it, make comments, view on the web, and share whatever you’re reading. One thing that I didn’t like too much about this app were the animations. I’m the type of guy who likes somewhat fast animations, meaning that I don’t want to be able to watch, as the page moves or scrolls away. I’d prefer for something to be done in a snap, and unfortunately, that was not the case when it comes to Pulse. Selecting an article to read, on a snappy device, should be snappy, not make me feel like I’m watching paint dry. That may be a little blunt, but it’s the truth. When I’m reading articles on my phone, I’m usually smoking a cigarette or sitting at my desk at work, so there isn’t really that much time to waste. So that extra second or two annoys me. Am I being overly analytical? Probably.
While trying to populate your feed, I do recommend that you create the personalized lists, depending upon the topics. This just creates a more uniform, and organized, experience for perusing your various feeds. Creating a list is extremely simple. Simply tap the All Channels button on the top bar, and select New from the right hand side of the drop-down bar. Then create a name for the List, and then go through and search, and select which sites you would like to follow. Something that is big for me, that I’ve harped on numerous times, is the ability to save to Instapaper. I love the ability to save something to Instapaper if I see an article or something that I would like to either read or use for reference later on.
Someday, I’ll write something up on the wonders that Instapaper is. Instapaper is obviously not the only Read-It-Later service available for Pulse. You can also connect Pocket, Readability, or Evernote for saving those articles to read later on. Pulse also has the ability to save your favorite articles directly within the application, and then you can send them wherever you choose, at a later point in time. Sure there’s an extra step involved, but who cares.
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The final RSS reader application that I’ll be taking a look at today, actually came as a suggestion from a comment on my paid RSS apps article. InoReader was a service that I had never heard of before, and actually caused a little bit of a delay in the publication of this overview. The reason being, when it comes to applications or services that I use regularly, I’m always intrigued as to what is different about each application or service.
With a web interface, as well as the ability to add feeds via the InoReader itself, this follows the path of Feedly, but that’s just about where the similarities between the two services ends. Upon starting the app up for the first time, the only third party account that you can use to sign into InoReader is Google, other than that, you must create an InoReader account specifically. Once you’re done getting signed up or logged in, you are presented with a very basic interface, one that only lights up, once all of your feeds have been added.
Now, out of the box, the application has no clear cut way to create categories, or sub categories, if you follow a lot of different feeds, but it can be done. However, adding feeds to InoReader is pretty easy, via the big plus (+) button in the top right hand corner of the page. Tapping the + button will allow you to view the InoReader catalog, and from here you can either browser the various categories, or search for something specific. It’s not often that I don’t know what I want to add to my RSS feeds, but sometime I’ll just go through the suggestions and see if there’s anything that I’d like to add.
As for the main page of InoReader, the list that is presented, shows you how many articles are unread, a section for your favorites, and then a list of your subscriptions. You can also create a folder within your subscriptions, for better organization, by tapping and holding down on one of the feeds, and that pops up a dialog box. From here, you can Unsubscribe, Rename the subscription, Assign to a new folder, or mark all the articles within this feed as read.Once you’ve decided that you want to add the feed to a folder, then tap the corresponding option, then either create a new folder, or add to an existing one.
You can share an article to your read it later service of choice, but that functionality is not built into the InoReader app itself. However, you can still save the article to read it later via the Favorites section, and all you need to do, while in the article of choice, tap the empty star in the toolbar at the bottom. From here, you can also share, mark as unread, choose tags that are based off of your folders, view in Readability mode, or thumbs up the article. Like I’ve stated before, the design of application, and the way my feeds are presented, are extremely important to me, and unfortunately, after playing around with InoReader for a few days, I never really got the experience that I wanted. It’s still installed on my phone, but it’s more so just to play around with and see what kind of updates, if any will be coming to the app.
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I’m a sucker for good RSS apps, and these four that I covered today, all do things in similar, yet still different ways. Some are all in one, others have a web interface, but they all get the job done. The job of reading your favorite websites, like AndroidGuys, and getting the news and articles that you want to read. What do you use for your RSS needs? Are you one who goes for the paid versions, or do you stick to what’s free? Try some of these out and let us know what you think is the best.