Posts Tagged ‘ Google Reader ’

Skyfire Browser 4.0 – Is it Skyfire 4.Woah or Skyfire 4.Blow?

Skyfire Browser 4.0

A while ago we reviewed a beta version of Skyfire and despite its potential it just wasn’t quite up to the task of replacing the default Android web browser. Since that time Skyfire has gone through a number of iterations and has morphed into version 4.0 which brings with it a number of hefty improvements. It seemed like a good time to give Skyfire another chance.

Click the magnifying glass next to your Google results to open this handy results 'gallery'.

The layout makes for a good first impression, it’s feature packed but also tidy and intuitive. The top of the screen includes the address bar and a search box. Below this is an array of buttons for page navigation, home, bookmarks and tab management. Yes, Skyfire does tabs and it does them well. Also included is a handy switch to alternate between Android and Desktop mode which helps with avoiding those annoying limited ‘mobile versions’ of your regular web haunts. There’s also a drop down menu that offers similar choices to your average Android browser (share page, find, select text etc.) as well as the settings menu.
Using the Search box on the top right of the screen opens up some interesting search results. Searching for an item brings you the standard Google results but also displayed is a row of buttons that can scour for your search on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Videosurf and Digg. It a genius idea that turns a simple query into a whole range of varied search results. Excellent stuff.
The biggest selling point of Skyfire is the SkyBar, a customisable tool that is capable of offering all kinds of extra web content with the minimum effort on the user’s part. There are buttons for Facebook and Twitter which allow use of the social networks within Skyfire itself, they’re not as complete as their standalone app counterparts but it’s nice to have them handy if needed. A Facebook ‘Like’ button is also included so you can quickly share while you surf. There’s a ‘Popular’ button that can scan the website you’re currently visiting and show you what content from it is being shared the most and the ‘Fireplace’ button will scan your Facebook news feed for any photos or links your friends have posted.

The 'Popular' button is a great way to find content you may have missed.

These last few features combined are great for those moments of web surfing when you’ve ‘gone blank’ for things to look at. There are also buttons for sharing pages, viewing Google Reader and content related to news, sports and finance. In this latest version Skyfire really goes all out to deliver everything in one package.

Worthy of additional note is the ‘Video’ button, this is a feature that hunts down any video link on a page and optimizes them for playback. If you have downloaded Skyfire before you will get this feature for free however new-comers to Skyfire will only get a 3 day trial before it requires unlocking for a fee. So far I’ve not had much luck with this feature, videos take too long to buffer (even over wi-fi) and the playback quality could be better. I seem to have a better time relying on Skyfire’s built in flash capabilities, maybe I’m using the wrong sites (I’m open to suggestions here). Seeing as this feature costs £1.85 to unlock I recommend thoroughly putting this feature through it’s paces before committing to it.

Away from all the bells and whistles, general browsing on Skyfire is a breeze, web pages load in good time and the zoom / text-wrapping functionality is much improved from the beta. There’s even a built in pop-up blocker which so far has done a great job of staying on top of those ever-annoying rogue interruptions.
Despite the good stuff there are a couple of small downsides to Skyfire. So far I’ve been unable to find any way of organising my bookmarks, they only appear in the order I save them. There’s also a lack of an ‘incognito’ function, something that is becoming a more common feature on many browsers. These aren’t deal breakers and hopefully are simple things to be picked up on future updates.

Skyfire has definitely surprised me.

Skyfire does a fine job of handling flash content (and blocking pop-ups).

Usually a new web browser can take time to get into but I found Skyfire easy to get the hang of and it’s handling my everyday web browsing with ease. It’s the first mobile web browser I’ve come across that can play an active role in helping you find new content to enjoy rather than just sit back and let you do all the surfing. For me it’s earned the ultimate accolade on my HTC Desire, it’s become my default web browser and with that, I tip my hat to the team at Skyfire.

About This App :

  • Version Reviewed : 4.0.3
  • Requires Android : 2.0 and up
  • Category : Communication
  • Size : 1.7M
  • Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : A great web browser with some unique features that make surfing even better than before. Excellent stuff!

Google Reader – Google, Finally Kicking RSS*

Google Reader

Yeah I know, I need to stay on top of my feeds a bit more.

At last! Google Reader is now available as a standalone app for Android handsets. As much as I like ‘Pulse‘ and its slick UI it’s unable to handle all of the feeds that I have set up on my Google Reader account, this where the new Google Reader app comes into play. I use the original Google Reader in my web browser to manage all my RSS feeds and it does the job superbly, when surfing the web I always leave it open in a tab and let the articles I want to read drop straight into my lap. The good news is that Google have perfectly replicated this on the Android platform right down to the simple uncluttered UI.
All of the features from the standard Google Reader are here, you can ‘star’, like and share news items, you can even create folders and organise where your news feed will reside (this is achieved by long clicking on a news feed). There’s also a quick and easy function to send a news item to another app on your handset such as a twitter client, simply press the menu button when viewing a single post and select ‘send’. There have been some reported issues with the ‘share’ and ‘notes’ features however, these aren’t functions that I use so I’d recommend a look at Joe’s review over at andgeeks.com to get the full picture.
The main settings menu is accessible from the ‘home’ screen and from here you can activate the handy ‘volume key navigation’ function, this will let you flick through posts in a news feed by using the volume keys. The only thing I havn’t been able to find is a quick and easy way to get back to the home screen when in a news post, a ‘home’ button in the menu button would have been nice.
The app also has a good handle on media that has been placed within posts, images display with no problems and selecting a Youtube video will open it via the native Youtube app (this worked 95% of the time, the other 5% they didn’t work at all). If you have an RRS feed set up for a podcast Google Reader will show the link to the audio at the bottom of each post which can then be easily opened in a compatible music app of your choice. I used Google Reader over a 3G signal and it ran at an solid pace with no major waiting times for items to download, the only downside is the lack of downloading items for offline reading. No signal? No RSS for you then.
Despite the odd niggle Google have pretty much hit the nail bang on with this app, it’s a shame it took them three years after Android launched to get it made but at least now it’s here we can all get in on the RSS goodness.

Link : Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Simple, uncluttered and pretty much exactly all it needs to be, if Google throw in a ‘home’ button then I’m totally sold on this. If you use Google Reader in your desktop web browser then this is a good way get the same experience on your mobile.

*Yeah, I know I did this joke the other week. RSS puns are pretty thin on the ground don’t you know.

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