Material for Android review: A slick and promising, but buggy reader

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The Good Material has an attractive interface and an exceptionally simple setup process. Unlike Flipboard, it creates a personalized digest for you, saving you from adding news sources manually.

The Bad You'll likely see several redundant stories throughout your digests. There's no way to see previous digests. The app is riddled with bugs.

The Bottom Line Material could one day be a great, simpler alternative to Flipboard, but first it has to fix its performance issues.


7.6 Overall
  • Setup 10
  • Features 8
  • Interface 8
  • Performance 6

Developed by Inq Mobile, the Material app uses your social graphs on Facebook and Twitter to create a personalized digest of news for you to read. While it may sound like an imitation of the Flipboard News Magazine reader, there are actually a number of major differences in the way Material lets you consume content and perhaps more importantly, the way it populates your content feed. Overall, these differences are both good and bad, but they mostly serve to set Material apart as an simpler alternative for the less demanding reader.

Even though it's still young and in need of some bug fixes (among other things), I do think Material has the potential to be a great news reader, especially for those who don't want to put too much work into curating a news feed. For now, though, I would recommend just keeping an eye on this app and waiting for its developers to iron out the kinks.

Populating your feed
The best thing about Material is its dead-simple setup process. Right when you download the app, all you have to do is log in with either your Twitter or Facebook account, and wait as Material analyzes your data. Of course, if you log in with both of your social accounts, then the app will have more to analyze and thus a better opportunity to home in on your interests. But I signed in with only my Twitter account and still, it appeared to do just fine. The caveat here is that you must actually use the social account that you link, otherwise Material won't have much to work with.

Now, here's what makes Material unique. Once the app finishes analyzing your social data, its algorithm creates a sort of digest filled with stories relevant to your interests. The app feeds you a different digest twice a day (Morning Edition and Afternoon Edition), and each is tailored to your ongoing social graph, almost like a personalized magazine. Stories are divided into categories like Computing, Film, Design, and Basketball. And if the algorithm didn't get all of your interests right, you can manually delete or add categories as needed.

To get set up, just sign in to your Twitter or Facebook account, and wait while Material puts together your digest. Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET

While other apps, like Flipboard and Feedly, mostly rely on you adding specific news sources to your feed, Material does all the work for you. Based on your interests, it fills your digest with stories from sites ranging from large-scale news outlets to smaller independent blogs. With this system, you don't get to carefully curate your feed, but you do get to see stories from sites you otherwise might not have known about. And that element of discovery is valuable.

Consuming content
Overall, Material's interface is well designed, with lateral and vertical swipe gestures to go between stories and categories. The category screens are nice, with full-width images and bright colors. And the popped-out story pages give you a no-frills view of stories, similar to what you would see in an RSS reader app like Feedly. You can even jump to a full Web view of a story by hitting the double-arrow button up top, and you can share a story via Android's Share protocol.

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