Friday, September 10, 2010

BerryReader vs. Feeds

I would guess that if you polled Blackberry users and asked them what kind of app they would most like to see on their beloved phones, a fully synced Google Reader application would be in the top 10. If you're a news/tech/sports junkie like me, you use Google Reader to aggregate your news and your Blackberry is permanently attached to your right hand, you need an app like this on your phone.

Of course, you only need a single Google Reader app and I'll help you choose between two that claim to be everything that you need.


BerryReader (BR) is developed by Bellshare and is currently in stable version 1.0.63 for OS 5.0. It is available for numerous devices and OSes and currently costs $9.95 from Mobihand, though it was on sale on 9/10/10 for $4.99 from App World - so deals can be found. Unlike many developers, Bellshare offers a 7 day free trial as well.


Feeds (Feeds) is developed by CDJ Studios and is available for $2.99 on Blackberry App World. The current version is 1.01.

Feeds: Both interfaces are nice as you can see in the numerous screenshots to follow, but I prefer the interface for Feeds. Following a theme you will find throughout this review, it is extremely simple. No extraneous bells and whistles. 

Not to say that the BR interface is ugly by any means but I would consider the Feeds interface cleaner.

Navigation & Display
If you have many feeds and articles that you peruse on a daily basis, easy navigation and display of your articles is very important. How do these two programs stack up?

When you launch BR, you are greeted with the feeds screen. The state of the screen is remembered upon each close of the program, so if you were viewing your "News" folder last time you will see that again, if you were in your CNN feeds you'll return to that, etc.
BerryReader feeds screen

Feeds takes you to the "loading" screen and afterwards drops you into the initial folder screen. You can be on this loading screen for awhile if you set the app to download 1000 feeds, so be prepared for that.
Feeds "loading" screen

Viewing articles in Feeds is quite simple. If you have your feeds organized in folders, click on that folder to view the feeds. If the are not in a folder, click the feeds under the "Feeds" section.
Feeds "feeds" screen

The thing that I didn't like about this was that you cannot browse by feeds if they are in a folder. Clicking on "News" above will bring you to 185 articles sorted by date - not to a separate list of feeds in that folder.

BR: BR allows you to switch between all feeds, a folder or a specific feed by using the "Select Feed" popup. Scroll up to the top bar and click or use the shortcut key S to open this screen. In addition to your feeds, you can also select Starred or Shared Items as well as see how many unread articles you have.
BerryReader Select Feeds popup

One annoyance I found with navigation in BR is that the escape key automatically exits the program when I didn't expect it to. Let's say your are currently viewing "All Feeds" and then select your CNN feed only. If you hit escape, BR does not take you back to "All Feeds" but instead exits the program. I imagine I'd get used to it after spending more time with the app, but right now I am constantly inadvertently closing the program.

As far as actually viewing the articles, BR accomplishes this well. First, you may select whether you'd like to view all articles or just unread articles. Clicking on an article will expand the article into a stub on the same screen.
BerryReader article stub

BR: Clicking the article again and selecting Show Full Article - or simply using the L shortcut key - will open the full article right in BR. BR allows you to choose between showing the article in Desktop View or one of two Mobile Views (Google Mobilizer or Instapaper Mobilizer). You also have the option of launching the article in the browser of your choice.
BerryReader CNN article Google Mobilizer View

Even better, you can choose a different view for each of your feeds and BR will remember - i.e. choose Google Mobile View for your CNN feed but the Desktop View for the Blogs.
BerryReader Desktop View

With Feeds (again, dead simple), you click on an article in the article list...
Feeds article list

...and you are taken to the article stub.
Feeds article stub

Click on the header and the article is launched in the native browser. This is your only option and was really the biggest disappointment for me. BR's Google Mobilizer right in the program is excellent and probably their best feature and biggest advantage over Feeds.

BR: I offhandedly mention a couple above, but BR's shortcut keys deserve another paragraph. Star item X, open in browser O, mark read M, mark all read A, etc. etc. I'm a big fan of shortcuts if it means I don't have to open the menu and BR provides plenty.

Of course, this is the key point to a program like this - does it properly sync with Google Reader? If this doesn't work, then the program essentially fails at what it set out to do.

Synchronization with BR seems to work just like you would expect. Mark an item read on BR and it is marked read on Google Reader. Star an article on Google Reader and it is starred on BR. In my review, I did not encounter anything with BR that I would consider unusual as far as syncing with Google Reader.

Feeds: Feeds synced fine as well. The advantage that it has over BR is that you can mark an entire folder or feed read in one click. In BR, you can only mark the articles read that are currently displayed on the screen.

BR: Not important to me at all, but worth mentioning that you can add/delete feeds in BR but you can't in Feeds.

I did have a small problem with Feeds when marking an article as unread in Google Reader. While BR recognized the article as unread, Feeds would not do so until you cleared the cache and refreshed.

Not that you would ever need to but I also wouldn't recommend attempting to mark 1000s of articles read in either application, really. In BR, I couldn't even figure out how as it seems you can only mark a maximum of 75 articles as read and Feeds didn't seem to like it when trying to do too many, erroring out.

You really don't require a massive list of options in a program such as this but both give you a couple of items to customize. 

BR: Among a few other things you can set the automatic refresh interval, the number of articles per refresh, do you want BR to notify you of new articles with an icon in the notification area and/or in your messages, which browser would you like to use when launching an article outside of BR and more.
BerryReader options


BR: As you can see the "Number of Articles per Refresh" option is also the number of items per feed that are cached for offline reading. Feeds claims an offline mode as well but I could not even get the app to open with my network turned off, receiving a "No useable network found" error. Yeah, "usable" is spelled wrong in the error.

I literally mean a "couple" of options when it comes to Feeds - Download Limit and Display Images. Choose how many articles you would like to download and if you would like to display images in articles - very simple.
Feeds options

BR gets the nod in this category but it isn't a showstopper (for me at least) that Feeds doesn't automatically refresh or that I couldn't figure out how to view articles offline.
Two words: 1) mobile 2) izer.

During my review, this was really the difference. The ability to open a full article from a webiste (ala CNN as shown above) in a mobile friendly view right inside the app was what made BerryReader the winner. Is this going to work perfectly with every feed? No. Is it awesome for the feeds that it does work? Yes.

However, while BerryReader does come away victorious, it is not as lopsided as it may seem. In fact, if you are looking for a dead simple, cheap, fast news reader that syncs with Google for your Blackberry, then Feeds is the choice for you.

If you are looking for something a little more full featured client (including items I did not even mention like the ability to email an article), you want BerryReader. Hey, and it has a 7 day free trial, so what are you waiting for!? Go download and eventually buy BerryReader.

These products were reviewed on a T-Mobile branded 9700 running 


  1. Extremely helpful review. Thanks. I'm going to take your advice!

  2. I think the choice between using BR and Feed depends on what would best suit you. BerryRead is ideal for users who want to view and browse the feeds all at once, but you can also select a particular feed to view. Feed app, on the other hand, is more simple and organized. It is perfect for users who don’t want to be bombarded by a lot of feeds since every article is placed in folders and files.

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