There has always been controversy about the Windows Phone Marketplace and the number of apps on it affecting the perception on the future of the platform. A common comment from a lot of users was also the fact that most of the apps were just RSS readers of a single website’s feed.
Next Gen Reader is not just another RSS reader. It is an RSS reader exclusively for Windows Phone and it claims to be the fastest Google Reader client for the platform. Does it live up to it’s claim? Let’s find out.
Though some users may have preferred the app to work independently of Google’s popular feed reader, the fact that Next Gen Reader relies completely on it is essential to the hassle free reading experience that the app aims to provide.
Since Next Gen Reader relies on Google Reader exclusively for feed management, the Google Reader login is the first screen you are greeted by when you start up the application. Enter your credentials and after a first quick sync you’re good to go.
After the initial sync you are greeted by a simple and unassuming screen that displays your list of feeds with unread article counts besides them. Don’t be fooled by the initial screen though. This app is filled to the brim with features as I will demonstrate to you.
The app adheres well to the Metro UI style putting your feeds at the front and center of your initial view. Here, the icon tray gives you options to mark all feeds as read, sync manually, toggle between items and access the option to search through articles. The search functionality is fast and efficient and works just as you are used to in Google Reader.
Tap on a feed to view a list of articles. In a nice touch that borrows from the default Windows Phone email app, you can tap on the left edge of articles to to enable functionality that performs actions on multiple articles – mark as read, star articles or add to your Read It Later list.
The Reading Experience
When in the main feed you tap an article to view it in the app’s default rendering mode which works well in it’s own right. However if you prefer something else the app gives you plenty of options to quickly toggle between different views. Those included so far are Readability, Instapaper, Google Mobilizer and an embedded full page browser view.
There is a lot more that you can do from this page itself. Share the articles via Facebook, Twitter or Windows Live if you set them up in the app or in what I considered a rather neat touch, you have the option to post via the Phone itself so you can share your article to every account you are connected to in the People Hub. There’s more.
If you previously setup your Instapaper or Read It Later accounts in the app, with a tap they are sent to your reading lists. Navigating between articles is also a cinch via taskbar arrows or simple swipe gestures.
Feed Management and Discovery
While the app was previously focused on the reading experience recent updates also brought with it feed discovery. So when you go to the manage sources area you aren’t greeted by your feed list but by a page with a featured feed constantly updated by the publisher.
Swiping to the left will bring you a page with several categories of feeds. If nothing interests you here, the app has a dead simple search function to discover new feeds. Search by keywords to return a list of relevant feeds and add them to your account in any folder desired.
The settings section of the app will help you control several aspects of the application. Advanced users can change the sync type, set image caching options and control how many articles are available locally.
You can also customize aspects of the User Interface like the font size of articles and the sorting order of articles. The app is completely theme aware but you can also manually choose between 3 different themes.
The accounts section lets you setup services like Facebook, Twitter and Windows Live for sharing and Instapaper and Read it Later for saving articles.
Like most Mango enabled apps, Nextgen Reader supports Live tiles. The tile can be set to update at a certain time interval to show the latest unread article title and an unread count.
You can also pin your favourite feeds to the home screen.
Behind Nextgen Reader’s minimal UI lies a great amount of depth and the app is packed with practical features throughout. It works smoothly without hiccups and also enjoys the support of a passionate developer who updates the application frequently.
Adding to this, is the fact that the free trial includes most of the features without ads. As far as RSS readers on Windows Phone go this one is not to be missed.