Breaking news is often an IT admins best friend. Knowing if a nasty virus is on the loose (or a fix for said virus), hearing about a shiny new piece of tech that could save your company millions of dollars, or even just keeping up on the latest technology trends is often a necessity within the world of IT.
Many of us don’t have the time to sit down at a desktop and scour the Internet for news. What we do have time for, however, is catching up with our smartphones and tablets. If you’re lucky enough to be on the Android platform, there are plenty of apps that aggregate news and serve them up with an easy-to-use interface.
But which ones? There are quite a lot of news aggregators available. I've gone through a good amount of them and found the ones that do the best job of collecting the most relevant news with the friendliest user interface. Here they are.
Flipboard offers a more modern take on the collection and reading of news. Instead of tapping through tabs and article summaries, you “flip” through tiles of topics. Once you’ve signed up for a free account (you sign up through the app), you can customize your Flipboard to list only technology-specific news (or nearly any topic). One really nice feature of Flipboard is the ability to create your own “Magazines,” which allow you to collect posts of interest into one location. You add posts into Magazines by opening the post (Figure A), tapping the plus sign [+], and then selecting a Magazine (or creating a new one).
Flipboard running on a Verizon-branded Motorola Moto X.
What puts Flipboard on this list is its flexibility. Not only does this app allow you to do some serious customization, it also will integrate with Android Daydream (so your Flipboard will show when your Android is docked or charging).
2. Circa News
Circa News was given the award for Best Google Play App of 2013. If you’re a news junkie, this is the app for you. Circa offers six categories: Top Stories, United States, Politics, World, Technology, Science & Health. Once you get into the Technology category (Figure B), you’ll find plenty of news to read.
The Circa News Technology category.
Circa News offers push and the ability to follow updates on a particular article as they arrive. This means that you won't miss a single bit of information on that article. As you read an article, you'll see related stories peppered throughout. Circa does a great job of keeping the related articles focused on the topic at hand (unlike some other news outlets, who just toss in popular buzz phrases to get you to continue reading). Circa also allows you to share articles via the usual methods — email, Facebook, Twitter, etc — and get quick access to all of the posts you’re following.
What puts Circa on this list is its ability to easily get you to poignant, relative content quickly and its amazing interface that actually helps you read sometimes complex content when you're on the go.
3. Google Play Newsstand
Google Play Newsstand not only allows you to find the technology news you want, it also lets you to subscribe to magazines — all in one convenient interface. The interface allows you to quickly switch between a standard and a Mini Card view. The standard view presents the pieces with large images and titles, whereas the Mini Card view offers a compact view so you can scroll through article listings faster. Technology is couple with science (as it often is). When you view the Science & Technology subject (Figure C), you'll see available magazines at the top and news stories at the bottom.
Google Play Newsstand’s Technology topic.
One of the only issues I’ve found with Google Play Newsstand is that you never know when you’re landing on a piece of news from a subscription-based source. For example, any time you tap on a piece from the New York Times, you're reminded of how many free pieces of content you have (you're limited to 10 per month). However, once you get into a piece, the interface gets out of the way and provides you with a clean reading experience.
What puts Google Play Newsstand on this list is the blending of both news and magazines — both of which can be added via subscription (if required) and the ability to read everything offline.
4. Tech News
Tech News offers a clean and simple interface (Figure D) to bring to you a collection of some of the most reputable tech news sites around (Gizmodo, SlashDot, Ars Tecnhica, Wired, TechCrunch, Engadget, The Next Web, Mashable, AllThingsD, CNET, and much more). Note: If you have another site you would like to include (such as TechRepublic — hint hint), simply email the developers and they will look into adding the feed.
Tech News interface is clean, even with the ads.
The Tech News interface is set up in Tabs — one for each source. Simply swipe to the right or left to gain access to a new source of news. Once you're on the chosen source, scroll through and tap on the article you want to view. Tech News isn’t filled with bells and whistles. About the only things you can do is zoom in and out, visit the article site (from within an article, tap the device menu button, and then tap Visit Site), and share a post (via the standard methods). From within the app settings, you can disable/enable image loading, enable close app confirmation, enable Remember last feed, add/remove feeds from your list, and re-order the feeds that you've enabled.
What puts Tech News on this list is its simple approach to providing the news you want on your mobile device without anything getting in the way.
5. Currently Tech News
Currently Tech News calls itself the “Pop-chart of the Technology business news.” It works hard to take the search out of your news by including a Top Headline Chart, Breaking News notifications, Past hour and Today charts, and much more. The interface is set up to mimic a music “Top 40” chart (Figure E), but don’t let that turn you off.
The Currently Tech News interface.
The interface is actually very easy to use. Tap on the Past hour or Today tabs to get up-to-date news. If you long-press an entry, you'll be prompted to save the article for later reading, tweet the article, or share it. If you simply tap the entry, the article will open in your default mobile web browser. You can also set up Currently Tech News to open the articles without the help of a third-party browser (tap the device menu button, select Settings, and click Use External Browser to disable). Although the internal reader is fine, you’ll get a richer experience by allowing the external browser to display the content. The only problem with that is you’ll have to re-open the app when you’re done reading.
What puts Currently Tech News into this list is its ability to get the most current news to you as quickly and effectively as possible.
There is so much news available now. Getting the content you want can mean either visiting a number of web sites or using a single tool to bring it all together. These five apps all do an outstanding job of just that. What's your favorite tech news app for the Android platform? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.