Paperboy: My new favorite reading app

This review is going to be a lot more in-depth than most of my previous ones. I have been using Paperboy since last December, and over the course of times I have learnt so much about not just the app, but also the effort the developer put in over that duration.

Firstly, a brief description about Paperboy: Paperboy is a reader application with a focus being on providing a very neat and smooth user interface, avoiding some of the issues more famous applications suffered from. For example, I found Pulse for a long time to have issues with scrolling.

Historically, such apps have been very stripped down, which isn’t the case with Paperboy at all. In fact, Paperboy provides an interface every bit as attractive as Pulse, without suffering from any of the glitches. It also focussed heavily on offline reading which is crucial for markets like India, where the developer is based out of.

Utilizing Google Play’s Beta Channel brilliantly

paperboy wireframeI’ve mentioned on a few occasions before that my favorite announcement at Google I/O in May was the Alpha/Beta channel for developers on Google Play. I personally have always believed that it is crucial to have user feedback at an early stage to help shape the app, but for smaller developers it was never easy to do so.

The Play Store’s implementation of this is amazing. The only friction to joining a beta program for a tester is to join a Google+ community that the developer has whitelisted. While this might reduce the overall number of testers, it actually increases the power of the system by a significant amount.

In Paperboy’s case, the feedback from testers has been amazing, and it hasn’t just been bug reports or usability issues that any app might come across. There have been several minor feature requests that have improved the quality of the experience tremendously, others have made suggestions at various places regarding design choices. Some have gone as far as to draw detailed wireframes.

A major reason for Paperboy’s success with the Beta channel has been the responsiveness by the developer. With an average of two beta releases a week, as a user you know the suggestions you are making will be incorporated quickly, and hence you are more likely to share your views.

And, as always, the user benefits from getting early access to the app’s updates, such as the Pocket integration which is available to beta users right now, but not the public.

Power to the User

A general rule for user experience is to not bombard users with options. This is something followed closely by a lot of the larger apps out there. The issue is that different users have different needs, and Android users are typically more likely to want to personalize an application.

Paperboy does a great job offering a wide range of options. For example, while I like images, I want to quickly get down to reading an interesting post. Paperboy allows you to make your interface “image heavy” or “text heavy”. By default, their sort order pushes popular posts to the top, but I’m certain quite a few would rather see them sorted chronologically. Would you rather see a list of articles when entering a particular feed, instead of the first one? You can do so. Need more aggressive refreshing of your content, or even the time period in the day that it performs the syncing? No problem.

This allows you to really make the app your own. I’ve changed at least half of the default settings because of a few of my idiosyncrasies, such as an awkward time schedule which doesn’t work well with the app’s 8 AM to 8 PM refresh window. It is quite unlikely that there is something within the app that you would want to change, but can’t.

The Reading Experience

paperboy screenshotAt the end of the day, Paperboy is a reading app, and it needs to nail down that experience. Fortunately, particularly when combined with the options offered, it really does so. Like I mentioned at the start, speed is a key element here when it comes to reading and scrolling.

One aspect that Paperboy does better than any other app that I have seen is the way it offers the ability to read the article one the source’s website. Surprisingly, considering how common it is for sources’ to limit the length of their posts on RSS feeds, even big apps like Pulse have poor experience in this regard. This boils down to WebViews, and the fact that they are pretty slow unless the developer makes some changes.

On Paperboy, it is snappy enough that I don’t wish I were offered to launch in the browser by default. It also has a neat little easter egg of sorts that allows you to browse through the posts using the volume buttons, which has come in handy while travelling.

What Differentiates Paperboy

If you are a Feedly user, you probably aren’t short of third-party options. However, if you are a Feedly Pro user, then Paperboy is the only third party app out there that gives you access to Pro features. Currently, that is limited to search. As a non-Pro user, but that doesn’t mean I’m left out: they’ve built their own search feature within the app which automatically decides whether to use Feedly’s service or theirs.

I can’t recommend Paperboy enough, and definitely recommend joining the Beta channel in particular. You can join the community over here, or download the app from the Play Store over here.

 

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  • http://www.phandroid.com Quentyn Kennemer

    Looks great. I’m always in the market for news reading apps. My favorite lately has been Press (combo’d with Feedly as the backend platform), but will give this one a shot.

    • simpleas

      do you use flipboard or zite? maybe this is not like those apps?

  • http://overlordror.tumblr.com/ Ashley King

    Looks cool, I keep feedly on my phone for all my feeds, but always on the lookout for something new.

  • wickets

    thanks for the review….going to take it for a spin too

  • Steven Cannan

    Haha I read it as playboy xP

    • Jroc869, Nexus-Life

      Its all about the articles

  • Alter

    The ability to read the articles on the source’s website doesn’t seem to stand out for me, it’s similar to how other apps are doing it. In fact, one app that does the best job with it is Press. It has Readability integration, so it can load the whole article, and it looks as if that’s how it was in the RSS. It’s pretty seamless.

    • Raveesh Bhalla

      You have an option on the upper right called “declutter” which does that for you. It is experimental right now, and you need to enable it within Systems > Miscellaneous

  • steveb944

    Currently using gReader but I’ll give this a shot

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  • Dominic Powell

    Oi. Phandroid thanks for using my mockup =) in your article.

  • maniel

    just deletad it, i really don’t like when app needs me to login to google, not because security reasons, i trust them, it’s just annoying, i’m already logged in to google on my phone, why should i do it again? especially with long passwords and two step verification, for example now i’ve made a typo with my password, ok, i type it again, verification code, ok, let’s switch to Google Authenticator, copy code, go back to paperboy… oops, paperboy went back to previous screen (OK, maybe it’s my HOX memory management fault, but still, it’s discouraging), now i have to type my 30something signs of password again, which is tedious even with the best on screen keyboard, NOPE

    • steveb944

      Yeah I hate having to re login on my already unlocked and signed in Google device. Happens to me on my Chromebook even. I just app switch back and forth on my phone and I get my code, maybe it is your HOX.

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      • maniel

        Ok, I confess, I’ve entered Google now by mistake when switching back to paperboy, so maybe it unloaded because of this, but my point was it’s pain in the ass to be forced to login to Google for each app, on already connected device, and more with 2step verification, then you have to worry about risks of switching between apps

  • Shawn_Locke

    I’m using InoReader as it works quite well for my needs.

  • Tiger Wong

    actually, there are only a few features available…

    the customization is not so rich if you compare paperboy to gReader or justreader.