Product Engineering // Blog

Google Currents: Preview of Ice Cream Sandwich?

google currents android app logoGoogle Currents is a new content consumption vehicle for Android and iOS devices that attempts to create a magazine-like reading experience (a la Flipboard) from your RSS feeds. The app was quietly released to North American audiences last week and has been well received with an average rating of 4 starts on the Android Market (side note: just realized Google added sortable reviews to the browser version of the Android Market.) Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the app, however, is the decidedly ICS look and feel.

Ice Cream Sandwich Preview

Everything from the Roboto font to the on-screen menu bar that allows users full access to the app without using hardware buttons screams Ice Cream Sandwich. That’s right – if you haven’t heard already, it looks like hardware buttons are on the way out. The Samsung Galaxy S, the Ice Cream Sandwich flagship device scheduled for American release in the coming days, lacks the familiar Home, Menu, Back and Search buttons on the device itself. In their place, software buttons for Back, Home and Multitasking will sit at the bottom of the screen. It will be up to developers to implement the rest of the features normally accessed through hardware buttons in the apps themselves. Functions normally accessed by the Menu button will likely require the most creativity to work into existing UI’s, as Android app developers have become accustomed to hiding additional features and options behind a press of the standard Menu button. A small cog icon sits at the bottom of the Google Currents home screen and brings up additional options when pressed. Pressing the hardware Menu button results in the exact same outcome. While Currents may have been released to a Gingerbread dominated market, it’s clear that Google is taking the impending flux of Ice Cream Sandwich users into account. The (iPhone) version of the app is pictured above.

Self-publishing through Google Currents

The publishing feature in Google Currents isn’t getting a lot of press, and that’s a shame. Anyone can publish their own “Edition” through Google Currents Producer. Content can be added from an RSS Feed, YouTube page or even via Google+. The process is intuitive, surprisingly non-technical and should allow for a wide variety of publishers and content through Currents.

It’s too early to say how Currents will stack up against the bevy of other magazine style RSS readers out there, but  the product was never meant to be a typical magazine style RSS reader. Google Currents represents an opportunity for lesser known publishers to easily exhibit their content in a new and exciting way.

Check in later this week for a full rundown of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). We’ll tell you what’s new and what it means from the perspective of our in-house Android developers.

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