We review FeedSquares, a Google Reader/Atom Feed RSS app for Android
Although Android fans will argue vehemently that Google’s mobile operating system is winning the war with Apple’s iPhone when it comes to raw functionality, one thing that many Android apps seem to get wrong is visual appeal.
Many of the programs you can download from the Android Market may do their job wonderfully well but in terms of atheistics it’s often painfully clear that coding something that looks good isn’t high on the developer’s priority list.
FeedSquares is something of an anomaly then, because it succeeds in catching the eye but is stymied somewhat by some unfortunate performance issues.
FeedSquares – which is also available as a Google Chrome web browser extension – is essentially a pretty front-end for your RSS/Atom feed Google Reader account. You sign into Google Reader when you first open the app and from that point onwards it will automatically update your subscribed feeds – you can even choose the regularity of each update in the options menu.
Most RSS reader apps are focused on condensing information into a manageable menu system but FeedSquares is all about making the process as visually arresting as possible. Your feeds are laid out in a stylish grid format, with each feed source filling a square – hence the title of the app.
Tapping a feed will open up a sub menu where each news item is displayed as a rectangle, along with any related imagery that might be attached to it. A further tap on one of the news items brings up FeedSquare’s own viewer, which does a good job of reformatting the information and displaying images.
FeedSquares allows you to control the information you’re being presented with – you can decide to block the download of already read items, for example.
It’s also possible to mark a large selection of news items as read if you want to clear the decks of old news. “Top Picks” allows you to quickly view the most popular stories from your multitude of feeds and like any self-respecting Android program, FeedSquares also allows you to share stories using services such as Twitter and Facebook.
Neat little touches – such as fade animations on the squares and smooth page transitions – embellish the experience. Unfortunately at this stage FeedSquares feels a little rough around the edges in places; we had the app hang on us quite a few times when it was downloading fresh news stories and the interface has a tendency to lag when there’s a lot going on in the background.
Given the sheer amount of information the app is trying to download it’s little wonder that some latency is present but it could be argued that RSS readers should be as quick as possible when it comes to updating, and those of you that crave information but care little for design may struggle to see the benefit of FeedSquares.
Despite these niggles there’s a lot of potential in FeedSquares, and Google obviously agree because the company has recently promoted the app as one of its recommended Chrome extensions. If the developer can work on making the operation as smooth as the design then this could become a must-have download for web-savvy Android fans.