Android App Review: Meltdown

People are panicking, and judging by my Fever temp, the shut down of Google Reader is a hot topic for the blog-o-sphere. And why not? It’s fodder to feed a sometimes dull day. Heck, I even caught the spirit. Let’s not forget though, the shutdown won’t officially happen until July 1, so there’s plenty of time to figure out your alternative. I suggest though that you start testing alternatives, and determine which news aggregator you like. At least before it’s too late.

Most people are recommending Feedly. Despite it’s catastrophic failure on Google’s announcement day, Feedly is actually a really great Reader-like alternative, with a decent Android app. Feedly’s interface also looks a lot like Google Reader, so many people shouldn’t notice too much of a difference. Digg, if you “dig” the service, looks like they will get into the Reader-replacement game. Once again showing why you don’t need to rush into some replacement.

However, if you’re like me, you rushed for a replacement, and, if you were smart, installed your own Fever reader. The install isn’t hard if: A) you own your own web server, or B) have access to your web server. I installed my Fever on the back-end of The Droid Lawyer blog in about 5 minutes. Getting a Fever’s not cheap though, at $30 for the license, you’re making a small investment. However, you need to trust me when I tell you that Fever is worth the investment.

The one problem with Fever though is the lack of accompanying apps. Google Reader is nice because of the ubiquitous number of knock off apps that did a good or better job than Google’s own app. With Fever, you’re stuck viewing feeds in your desktop or mobile browser. The mobile viewing is something to be desired – I loathe mobile sites. I’m sure you feel the same way, too. That said, if you remember to turn off mobile browsing on your phone or tablet, mobile viewing isn’t a big deal.

Browser viewing still doesn’t cut it though, so I searched Google Play for a Fever aggregator. That’s when I came across Meltdown (free) (thanks also to Bryan Griffith who mentioned the app).

As far as I can tell, Meltdown is the only Fever reader available at this time. It’s probably also someone’s part-time project, making the app good, but not great. Meltdown is definitely one to pick up if you’re using Fever.

Overall, the Meltdown app is fast, responsive, and well-designed. The app worked on all of my devices, which was refreshing.

If you’ve used any sort of reader app, then Meltdown’s interface will be familiar. You begin by logging into your Meltdown server.

Once you’re logged in, you may need to refresh your feed list. In most cases though, Meltdown presents your current, unread feeds and your “Sparks.” Sparks are feeds you subscribe to just to increase your fever – they’re interesting, but not necessarily stories you want to read all of the time.

Click on a particular feed or the list of sparks, and you’ll get all of the stories.

You can see how fresh each story is, and a little excerpt of the blog post. Clicking the post will give you the full post.

The app doesn’t automatically resize or reflow the post text to fit your screen, which is a big, and somewhat annoying flaw. While you won’t notice this on many posts, occasionally you’ll find one that’s fractured and forces you to scroll left or right to view the contents. You can press the zoom out icon  for a broader view, but even in this mode, sometimes the words are too small to comfortably read.

I’ve also noticed that sometimes, if a blog post includes a video, the video may not appear. For instance, I included two YouTube videos in the recent Android News Round-up. They didn’t show up in the Meltdown feed. However, videos appeared on another blog post from a different blog.

The app does a great job offering ways to share with other apps, such as social media, and gives you the ability to view the post in your browser at the site. I miss the swipe-to-next feature in the Google Reader app, but tapping the next button is certainly easy enough. Plus, I rarely use the next feature anyway, since I generally don’t read every available story.

I’m generally satisfied with the app, and certainly wish I knew Android app coding so I could help tweak and improve Meltdown. Overall, Meltdown gets 3 of 5 stars.

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.