Features & Use
I may be a proud member of the online generation, but there is something priceless about leafing through the hard copy of a newspaper or magazine. Being able to scan across the pages looking for interesting process is something I enjoy on an intuitive level. And even though nowadays I get most of my news from the web, I still like to indulge myself by purchasing an actual magazine every once in a while.
PressReader tries to bring the best of both worlds by adjusting authentic newspaper layouts to fit onto Android screens. Unlike Pulse, Taptu and other news readers PressReader doesn’t just list the online articles from the websites of different news sites. In fact, Press Release doesn’t work with RSS feeds or Google Reader. Instead of aggregating the news, this app allows you to download high quality scans of virtually every single publication on the planet, tailored to fit your Android screen.
When you start up the app, you are automatically redirected to “My Library” where you’ll find a default list of British publications. All of the news sources can be organized by most current or alphabetically by tittle.
The entire app is separated into three sections:
- My Library: Includes a list of all the newspapers you read.
- Store: A directory of all the publications available to download. Over 100 countries are represented with all the major international, national and regional newspapers.
- Settings: Here you can adjust your delivery settings, manage your account, view the FAQ and adjust data access options.
Head to the store first and browse through all the different newspapers presented to find your favorite news sources. Once you’ve found a newspaper you like, say the NY Times or The Guardian, you can click on it to download the latest issue. If you follow a specific newspaper on a regular basis, mark the checkbox to automatically download the latest issue as soon as it comes out.
The download process may take a while because the app downloads high-quality scans of the actual newspaper to your SD card. Once the green bar next to a newspaper is full, you can proceed to opening it up and reading it on your screen.
When you open a downloaded newspaper issue, the entire newspaper is presented to you in a series of high quality. Go between pages by simply swiping across the screen and either pinch or double-tap the screen to zoom in on the text. As crude as this may sound, all of the newspapers and magazines are basically displayed in PDF format. Basically, it’s like reading a PDF except for the fact that you can zoom in and flip pages with simple finger gestures.
Although the newspapers look truly stunning on Android screens, it is a bit difficult to navigate and /or read columns that are broken up across several different pages. To make your life easier, Press Release automatically highlights every article title in blue. Tap any highlight to view a plain text smartphone-formatted version of the original article. When viewing a specific article you can listen to the app via text-to-speech (although this did NOT work during my test), share the article via Facebook, Twiiter and email as well as adjust the font size. Be careful when changing the font size because it can really screw up the formatting. Unfortunately, you can only do so when you are fully zoomed out of the newspaper, something that I ended up having to learn the hard way.
At the top of the screen there are two arrow buttons for switching between pages (although swiping is always an option as I mentioned). Squeezed in between them is a button that gives you a quick overview of the entire newspaper. You are given the option of either viewing the entire newspaper in grid view or the app can breakdown any news source based on a table of contents. This allows you to quickly navigate to the section of the newspaper that interest you most.
WARNING: After downloading several newspaper issues, I realized that Press Reader limits you to 7 free downloads because it's actually a trial version. Anyone wishing to continue using the app after the limit will have to sign up for a subscription plan. Unfortunately, the prices for the subscriptions are through the roof because you are basically getting a full newspaper replica in digital format.
Bottom Line: Press Reader is definitely a one-of-a-kind newspaper reading experience and I enjoyed using it much more than your average news app. For those of you that wish to make newspaper reading on your Android as real and authentic as possible – Press Reader is a great option. The major downside is that you’ll have to pay a lot of money for a subscription that will cost you almost as much as a regular paper copy one.
Screen & Controls
First off, this app is best used on devices with large screens. Reading PDF scans of newspapers on a small screen is painful, regardless of how good the app is. For the best possible experience, I would suggest downloading the Honeycomb version and using the app on your Android tablet. So the bigger the screen, the better the experience.
In terms of design, PressReader itself is pretty minimal and looks like a regular file manager. The entire color scheme ranges from black to grey. Instead of focusing on the UI, the developers put all of their effort in making the newspaper navigation as user-friendly as possible. Intuitive finger gestures make paging through the newspaper scans similar to leafing through an actual paper copy. So although the entire app might make a dodgy first impression, the quality of the newspaper display and navigation compensate for the overall look.
Speed & Stability
Everything runs smoothly and quickly, but it does take a while to download newspaper articles due to the high quality of the scans. Plan on waiting anywhere between 1-5 minutes to download an entire newspaper, depending on the publication length and the amount of color photos. Otherwise, PressReader performed well and never crashed during my test.
Although PressReader itself is free, it’s actually a trial version that limits you to 7 free downloads. If you wish to download more newspapers, you’ll have to sign up for a pricey subscription plan. You can either pay €0.79 per download as part of a Pay As You Go plan or go for the unlimited plan which will cost you €20.95 a month. That’s actually just as expensive as subscribing to an actual PAPER newspaper. It’s your choice, but I know this is going to be a huge turn off for most users.