Mike was instantly drawn to Android with the release of the G1 and HTC Magic which became his first phone. Drawn by the allure of open source and community, he quickly learned about rooting his device and applications to improve its performance Since then he has only owned Nexus devices for their ease of root level access and the ability to run the latest versions of Android via ROM or stock. He has owned a Nexus One, a Nexus S 4G, a Nook Color, and a Nexus 7.
He started writing for Android in 2011 at Android Activist and started writing for Rootzwiki News in April 2012. He was married in October, 2012 and lives in Richmond, Virginia.
We've all seen the buzz about a new application from the developers at Twentyfive Squares called Press. I was instantly drawn to the application because of my loud outcry about the shortcomings of Google Reader and their need to update their application. While I like the direction Google has taken with Currents, I've always felt Reader itself was the best way for me to catch up on all the feeds that I like to follow. Press gives us a UI and and experience that Google Reader desperately needs. Here are the core features of Press:
Syncs with Google Reader
Quickly manage the articles you want to read
Offline reading support
Clean reading environment
Simple swipe navigation
Change reading font style and size
Share the articles you read or star them for later
Open articles in the app or your default browser
Naturally there are no ads with Press. The application itself costs $1.99 in the Google Play store. That allows the app to provide a smooth minimal interface. A free version of Press with ads would like silly at best. The application will immediately gain authorization with the main Google account on the device and sync up. In the settings there is an option to tell Press how long the app can sync unread and read Reader items.
My first test was to see the offline functionality of the application. After syncing and reading my weekly items, I turned off wifi and data on my phone then threw it into airplane mode. I was then able to go back into my read items (indicated with an empty circle on the main page), and read prior articles. All of this passed the test of basic use with my Nexus 7 wifi while offline or away from a hotspot.
Once I turned the wifi back on my devices, I went into the articles and checked out the app's internal browser. In the settings, users have the ability to load with the native browser or with the default browser. Thanks to that Holo interface that we all know and love, I was able to quickly navigate around the browser and back into Press to surf more articles. I then switched to browse with my default browser (Chrome) which worked just as well, but felt disconnected from Press. Results may vary by the user, but I determined that using the native browser provided the better experience.
I think the only missing aspect to Press is the extra steps in navigating through my feeds. Occasionally I'll load my feed reader and only have 4 articles to read. They are in separate folders, for example, a tech folder, a music folder, and a blogger folder. When the items are so few, I'd like to just go and read all items. When I tap "All Unread", I'm taken to another screen that shows the folder that those items are located. I then have to again type on "All Subscriptions" to get to all items. I would like to skip that last step when I tap on All Unread items. If I want to cherry pick around the folders, then I shouldn't need the extra screen to do that. The interface on my Nexus 7 helps me circumvent that extra tap via a swipe, but the lack of it on my phone makes it feel just a little clunky.
However, once I get into my items, I have a beautiful gray interface that gives me my articles in a fluid list layout that's easy to navigate. Once I find an article that peaks my interest, I tap on the headline and am taken to that item for reading. I can swipe back to my list to select another item. It is within that part of the interface that I yearn for Google to do something similar with Reader and Currents. To have a combined effortless and minimal interaction with one another so my feeds are not only there, not only simple to access, but fun to access as well.
Another drawback comes within the article itself. Once I have finished reading that article, I go back to my list to find another. There has yet to be an application, be it Flipboard, Currents, or Press that can easily just jump me to the next article without going back to the list. There are times I'd like to go to article 1 and just peruse through them all without going back. With Google Reader, they do provide a simple swipe to the right to get to that next article, and I hope in time, more feed readers take that queue and provide a little magic into their GUI as well.
The consensus has to be that the interface feels more organic on tablets over phones. My last test and bone of contention came with landscape browsing which was natural and fun on my Nexus 7, but skeuomorphic and lacking on my phone. I do get that the phone interface is primarily for putting content in our face while on a tablet making it more of an experience, but I do hope the phone interface improves as this application develops.
I have to admit, I'm pleasantly surprised by the first release of Press. This application can only get better with time and I highly recommend the purchase. I would like to hear what our users think about it in the comments. I'm eager to see if the general consensus with Press is that it's well baked, but missing that one killer feature to make it a great application and a must for any Android user.
Press is available for $1.99 in the Google Play Store