[App Fridays] Google Currents - Revamped, Redesigned and Ready to Go

22nd Dec 2012
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To be honest, Google took UI and UX seriously only after Android 3.0. But ever since the user interface has been refined and bettered so rapidly, that within a span of a year, the Android is as pretty (if not prettier) as other mobile OS in the market. Heavy emphasis has been laid on usability on smaller

screens and Android in its current form has also shrugged off its difficult-to-use perception. It seems that this sense of design is coming through to Google’s apps as well.It is our privilage to present to you this week's App Friday, Google Currents, the news/content aggregator and reader which has come out with a newly design layout and has signed on some key Indian content providers along with many other region specific content providers. This category has been hugely dominated by Flipboard and Pulse over the past year purely because of a better user interface and a mobile friendly and intuitive user experience. Lagging behind in the number of downloads, the new and improved Google Currents might just have what it takes to make the cut as a truly great news reader and even beat its competition.

Users have often complained that the app is difficult to use and the large amount of content that it offers makes it difficult to manage. Has the new and improved app solved this? Read the review to find out -

Function

As mentioned before, the app is a news and content aggregator. Users will have a host of categories with corresponding publications to choose from. Once

chosen, the users can navigate between publications or by content within the publication using a sidebar menu or by the swipe gestures.Apart from these, here are some additional functions of Google Currents -

  1. Provides breaking news from the publications that you have subscribed to.
  2. A widget, that allows you to see new posts from the publications that you have subscribed to without having to go into the app.
  3. A new star feature for posts that you want to read later. These posts are also available offline (as with the older version of Currents as well)

Effectiveness


Google Currents was never a bad news reader. Its white background and typography have always made it a very good reader app for mobile devices. The pictures within the articles could be isolated and zoomed into; a feature that not many apps have today. The app also caches content so as to make it available even when your device isn’t connected to the internet. As a general reader, the app did great even in it previous version.The problem came with managing categories and publications. The older user experience has a magazine like layout, which wasn’t all that bad; only users subscribing to 30 - 40 publications has a tough time managing all that content. Furthermore, navigating from one publication to another, across categories and across posts within a publication wasn’t the best of experiences. This is what has changed in Currents 2.0. It is really easy to navigate within the app because of the newly added side menu and swipe gestures.

The sidebar lists publications under categories. This very Google +ish/YouTube-ish side menu is a great inclusion and it is very easy to navigate between publications. Another way to navigate between categories and publications is the sideways swipe which I personally love. It’s easy, quick and a very mobile thing.

Under a publication, the posts are laid out very much like the cards on Google Now and you can navigate through posts with vertical swipes. These cards contain excerpts of the article with a featured image on some cards, wherever possible. The animations of news stacking up as you scroll down is very pretty. 

The way the user reads the article within Google Currents hasn’t been changed and personally, I think the sideways scroll is a lot better from a navigation standpoint for short 1000 - 2000 word pieces. At the end of the article, swiping for the next page takes you to the next article, which again is something that appeals to me as a user.

Overall, the changes are beautiful and very thoughtful, making the app more effective than what it was before. I think the only problem that Google Currents had, has been sorted for good and its got what it takes to take on and even beat the leading apps in this category for popularity and appeal.


UI and UX

The thing I love the most about the new version of this app is the way it looks. The app is pure eye-candy and is refreshingly different from its previous version. From the way the tiles stack up, to the wonderful fonts and clean UI, this app is amazing to use. The transitions between screens during horizontal swipes are fluid and overall, the design team on this app has done a great job.

Design isn’t only about looks. These changes not only look better and, but also help in making the app more user friendly and not every app redesign has ended the way Google Currents has. No matter how much I write about this, it isn’t going to be able to convey the awesomeness of this app, so here’s a quick video of us putting the app through its paces -

What we liked


  1. We love this app. The apps got me as a user talking about it to other smartphone users, which is the best means of app marketing and I won’t be surprised to see a large migration from other news readers to Google Currents very soon. Here are the things that we really love about this app -Much more user friendly than its predecessor. Google Currents has solved its navigation problems for good.
  2. Killer looks - The app is beautiful. Period.
  3. Local content - This is one of the few mainstream apps that includes local news content. There is a large assortment of local news channels such as NDTV, IBNlive, Tehelka etc for the Indian reader. In a conversation with Gautam Gandhi, Head of New Business Development for Google India, he said, “We have some onboarded some great Indian publishing partners covering, news - both local language and English, sports and entertainment categories. What I'm more excited about is that Currents not only allows me to get Indian news, but also news from all over the world right in one place.”
  4. Breaking news - The breaking news section is available for relevant categories which keeps readers up to date as the posts are published. The Widget displaying this content is also very useful.
  5. Video content - Many online publications have YouTube channels which are also available in Google Currents which is a first among apps in this category.

What we didn’t like

There were some features in the previous versions that could have been preserved. 

  1. Font sizes could be altered in the previous posts and many users miss that feature.
  2. Another feature that would have been nice to have is text selection within the app.
  3. Content needs to be more curated. Tehelka Hindi in this app gave us videos in English, which was a bit of a let down. We were looking forward to seeing how Hindi rendered in Currents.

(We really looked hard for things we didn’t like about this app)

Last Words

Gmail and Maps have been by far the best Google apps in their respective categories. But with the case of Currents, there have been others in the market that have done better in the news reader category, asking Google a few questions about its

own app in the category. And Google has answered. I am definitely one of the users of other news readers who will be making the switch to Google Currents as my primary news reader.It gives me two very good reasons for doing so. One, it simply looks the best. The experience of using this app is like none other and on an android phone, its syncing capabilities with my Google account and other Google services makes it by far the best app in the category that I have used.

The second reason is the availability of Indian content. All major Indian content providers are available on the app, making it even more relevant for the Indian audience. With local content available for other countries as well, this might very well be the primary news reader app for users in many other countries as well.

Should Flipboard and Pulse be worried? I think so.

Download Google Currents.

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