I like comics. There: I've said it, the cat's out of the bag. And I'm a mobile and app geek, so my question is: do comic books and Android mesh well?
As you can imagine, I was more than curious to try Comics, an app that promises to do just that (i.e. bring classic comics to Android). Did the app impress us, even without the old-school comic book charm of leafing through crisp pages? Find out below.
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Features & Use
Comics is an app by comiXology and allows readers to enjoy a whole bunch of different comics. It also functions as a distributor for different publisher, be it household names such as DC and Marvel or something more off the beaten track.
But before I get into the features and why scrolling through comics virtually can be just as fun as flipping through a hardcopy, allow me to qualify a few things.
- When purchasing an edition you will have to do an in-app purchase, meaning you pay via Google Play and hence need a credit card, unless you want to link your account to an iPad or iPhone.
- Users can only access editions they have bought within the app, meaning Comics is a closed platform of sorts.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the features. As mentioned, Comics is both a reading platform and a digital comic book store that harbours everything (okay, many things) a comic lover's heart might desire. According to the developers there are currently over 20,000 editions on board.
A few comics are free, which I think is a wonderful feature (no big surprise there! We do love a good freebie!). In most cases the first of a series will be free of charge, allowing readers to become familiar with a narrative or style.
The app is set up in a straight forward manner that does what it promises to do: enable users to purchase comic books. This is where 'Guided View' technology comes into play. This is the term used to describe the way in which individual comics are presented, which is based on the same movements the human eye makes and enables reading comics on smaller displays.
Before we go any further let's address the fact that reading comics on a smartphone isn't quite the same things as reading on a tablet. The app performs really well on the tablet and there's nothing to whinge about here.
It goes without saying that results are not the same when viewing Comics on a smartphone. Quite simply, the size of the display sets the limits, and it isn't possible to see the entire screen content.
That is where 'Guided View' technology comes in; it takes some getting used to but once you do I think you will find it both fun and well though-out.
If ever you find yourself struggling with this technology you can also switch it off and navigate pages using pinch-to-zoom.
A few fun gimmicks such as little previews before 'turning the page' or an option to rate comics round things off nicely.
A few things that are missing: I would like to see better integration – especially in the shop – of social medias, as well as options to write reviews and insert bookmarks.
Comics is great. If you're not fussed about the 'closed platform' aspect and in-app purchasing, you will find this to be a great source for comic books.
There's tons to choose from, and the app has been adapted for tablet use, as well as optimised for small displays.
That said, if you prefer an 'open market' type approach and already own a lot of comics that you'd like to view within an app, or don't want to make in-app purchases, my guess is this won't be the right app for you.
Screen & Controls
I've mentioned a few things that fall under this category already. Comics is not fully adapted to the Google guidelines and doesn't use the Holo Theme, but on the other hand I tip my hat to the devs for not simply transcribing an iOS design.
The app looks great and controls are easy. Animations are nice also nice and Guided View technology makes for smooth reading.
Speed & Stability
Comics performs well from beginning to end. While the app didn't crash on any of our test devices, despite being build as a crash candidate on the Nexus 7 Jelly Bean when in 'Guided View' mode.
Comics is free from Google Play and it doesn't contain any ad banners.