I love Reddit. Like, alot. I also love Android. So naturally, I get pretty excited about new Reddit apps for Android. There are quite a few of them out there to choose from, ranging from full-on Reddit readers like Reddit is Fun, to purpose specific apps, like RedditTV or Reddit Pics. The holy grail of Reddit apps is a browsing app that has all of the functionalities of the web Reddit experience, while being easy to use and good looking.
Reddit is Fun has been enjoying the position of top reader app for quite some time, but earlier this year there were rumblings of competition. Mock-ups of a slick looking concept for a new Reddit app started floating around on r/Android in February.
Luckily, these concept images were more than just talk and on April 12th, Baconreader was released for open alpha. It has the looks, it has a very involved and community driven developer, but does it have all that it needs to topple RiF from its somewhat shaky perch? Come along on this fanciful journey into the land of bacon and narwhals to find out for yourself!
Baconreader was born out of a discontentment with the current Reddit app offerings. Reddit is Fun is not a pretty application, its UI consists primarily of either black text on a white background or white text on a black background. While it may be a little rough to look at, it delivered the best functionality of all the readers, so Redditors dealt with the bugs and less than stellar visuals.
Reddit user meinhyperspeed (me in, not mein) took action, where others have merely complained, and created this beautiful app you see today. It is currently in alpha stage, so the .apk is only available from the Baconreader subreddit, but it is free. During the alpha, users can submit any bugs that need fixing or feature requests they may have and they will get incorporated into the app after a review by meinhyperspeed. It's a great way to ensure that once it is released onto the Market (for around $1) it will have a strong user base ready to support the hard work of the developer and the community.
Below are some shots of the main page, where the submissions to the currently selected subreddit can be browsed. Baconreader uses continuous scrolling, so once you hit the bottom of the page, it loads the next one and the scrolling can continue. You can change the subreddit you are browsing and how it is sorted using the drop down lists. You can also access your messages and submit a link right from the homepage via the two buttons on the right of the top bar. I found the messaging and submit-a-link buttons still need a bit of tuning, as it takes an average of three click attempts to make it to my inbox.
To go to the comments of any submission, you just click the box for that submission. To go directly to the link you tap either the thumbnail or an arrow icon. If you hit the arrow icon for a self-post (a text post submitted to Reddit itself instead of an external website) you get a box showing the text content for that submission. It's a nice way to check out a post while not interrupting your front page scroll-fest.
The key to Reddit is community participation, usually in the form of upvoting, downvoting and commenting. You can up/downvote a submission on the subreddit page by either holding down the bar for that submission or giving it a quick slide to the right. This new menu (shown below) lets you see if you have voted on a submission yet, as well as see how many comments there are in that particular thread. Again, this feature is in need of tweaking. Bringing the menu up by sliding the bar is a little tricky, as any movement up or down will cause the menu to remain hidden. It's also a little cumbersome to have to bring this menu up to see if you have voted on a post or not, or to find out how many comments there are (as you can see, there is no visual indication of votes or comments on the main page.)
Clicking on the bar for a submission brings up the page for that post, as seen below. In it you have controls to up/downvote a post, make a comment on it, hide it, save it, and share it via any social networking app you may have installed. All of these do exactly what they are supposed to, and the buttons are much more responsive than the messaging and submission buttons. There is a button to go to the link submitted and one to preview the post. I found the preview button to be particularly slick, as it will pull the text or image from the link and display it above the comments. This helps make for a Reddit experience uninterrupted by loading pages in your external browser.
When you are feeling a bit sassy and want to jump into the peanut gallery, Baconreader does a great job of making the comment section useable. There is color coding for each comment based on its position in that particular comment thread. This makes it much easier to figure out exactly who is being addressed. The swipe/long click menu is available to allow voting or replying to comments and it is the only way to see if you have voted on a comment or not, as there is no visual indication on the comments themselves. When cruising down through the page, the more button at the top bar allows access to the controls that are present at the top of the page. Altogether, the commenting experience is enjoyable.
Features and Functionality
While Reddit users are extremely diverse in their interests and opinions, there are basically two types of Redditors. There are those that enjoy browsing the site for news and other interesing links without really contributing and there are those that horde karma like it makes them money. There are features in Baconreader to please lurkers and contributors alike.
Baconreader comes with a widget (bottom of the screenshot) in a style similar to the standard Android music or news and weather widget. It cycles through all the top stories on your front page and clicking it brings you to the post that was displayed. Some control options for the widget, such as a "next" button, would be nice, but it is awesome that it was there in the first version of the alpha.
[Editor's note: you're fired for the content of this SS, Zak. --Aaron (kidding, kidding)]
As mentioned previously, there is the ability to hide posts after you have read them. This allows users to systematically eliminate posts that they have finished with or will never look at. You can also choose keywords or link domains for a "blacklist". In other words, say there is a meme spreading like fire across Reddit. If you aren't really a fan of all the scumbags or spider talk, you can select "scumbag" or "spider" as blacklisted keywords and the app will automatically hide posts with those words in the title. If you aren't a fan of a particular meme-thieving blog site (totally not a reference to tumblr) you can add their domain to the blacklist and that will hide submissions with links from that domain. Baconreader gives those who just like to browse great control over the content that is on their home page.
While this control is nice, there are some minor quibbles when using Baconreader for content consumption. There is no internal browser, like the one in RiF, meaning that you can either only see the image or text in preview mode, or you must load the page in an external browser. This isn't a huge issue, but if you use a browser that supports tabs, it may result in a collection of 20+ tabs being open after a good Redditing session.
For those that like to partake in some commenting or even submitting a few pictures of their cat, Baconreader has you covered. You can post comments via the swipe/long press menu mention above and the mailbox shows all the responses you have received. It's a pretty standard Reddit inbox, except for the fact that it is lacking any real context to each of your messages. There is no indication of the subreddit that the reply was posted in, which can lead to a bit of confusion.
Posting via the submit link button is as easy as any other Reddit client, and there is even an option to take a shot from your phone's camera and upload it to the minus image hosting site automagically.
One glaring omission in Baconreader is the lack of profile pages. For those large-scale karma farmers that have many post to watch over and reply to, the ability to see how each is doing on one page is key. This is a missing feature that definitely impacts the usability of this app negatively and is something that may make hard-core redditors wait to see if it gets incorporated.
This is the absolute best looking Reddit app around. Not only is it attractive, but it is right up there with the reigning Reddit readers in terms of usability and functionality - and let's also not forget that this is the very first alpha release. There is currently a flurry of bug fixes and feature request being made over at r/Baconreader and meinhyperspeed is working hard to work them all into the next version of the app. In fact, there is an updated version of the alpha to be released this Thursday.
While shortcomings such as some finicky UI aspects, lack of immediately visible vote history or comment context and a lack of a profile page make this app less than optimal for the intense Reddit crowd, there is no doubt that most of these are merely temporary. I can say with confidence that, given the app's beautiful look and the hard work meinhyperspeed is putting in, once all the fixes and additions are in place, this will be the best Reddit app available. Period.
If you want to get in on the alpha action, grab the .apk from the link below and submit your fixes or features at r/Baconreader