I love what Google is doing for mobile; pushing the limits of device and OS capabilities with Android, championing HTML5 and the Web as the future of mobile applications and adopting a “mobile first” philosophy where new services are rolled out before or at the same time as their desktop counterparts.
But I do have a bone to pick with the way one of Google most popular web services, Google Reader, works on mobile. I really wish I could use Reader on my Android phone and in Opera Mini on my Symbian. BlackBerry and feature phones, but I can’t, it’s way too slow and click or tap intensive.
So what do I use. I know you will laugh at this but I’m still using Bloglines Mobile as my RSS reader. I know, Bloglines is dated, ugly, slow to post updates and unreliable with day long outages every few months. Google Reader is attractive, loaded with cutting edge AJAX slickness and the Reader back end webservice is fast and rock-solid reliable. So why do stick with Bloglines? Simple, it lets me read my feeds on my phones in half the time that it takes with Google Reader.
Why is that? With the standard version of Bloglines Mobile (bloglines.com/mobile), taping the “N Updated Feeds” link at the top of feed list (left image, above) loads the full text of all the unread items in all subscribed feeds as one big page. Goggle Reader (image top, right) shows a list of the titles and requires you to click or tap on each one in order to read it.
Lets say I have 100 unread feed items. On my HTC Magic Android phone, with Bloglines, it takes about 30 seconds and three taps to load those 100 items into a page. Then I just flick scroll to read them with no waiting time between items. Total taps: 3, waiting time: 33 seconds.
With Google Reader (google.com/reader/i/) it takes only a tap and about 3 seconds to load the titles of the first 15 items. But reading each item requires a tap and then a wait of approximately 2 seconds for the item’s text to load. Every 15 items there’s another tap and a three second wait on the “Load More items…” link. Total taps: 116, waiting time: 248 seconds
All those taps and waits add up. The actual time spent reading in the two apps is about the same, but with Google Reader I waste 400% more time waiting for the app and tap an extra 113 times to read the same 100 items. That’s 38 times as much tapping and four times as much waiting!
Every time Bloglines goes down for more than half a day I swear I will never use that unreliable dinosaur again and switch to Google Reader. But after a few days of using Reader I get so frustrated with its inefficiency that I run back to Bloglines, warts and all.
If any Googlers on the Reader team are reading this, please do your users a favor and throw together an alternate mobile reader interface that simply loads the full text of all the user’s unread items in a single page. I think it would make a great 20% time project. Or maybe release that long promised Google Reader public API, preferably in App Engine friendly Python or Java, so someone else could do it.