Google has pushed an updated version of its Google Reader app to the Android Market, and it has one small but important change that will seriously make me consider giving the app another chance: A “Mark previous as read” button. Basically, as you scroll through the latest articles from your RSS feeds, a button will pop up at the bottom of the page asking if you want to count everything you’ve just scrolled past as read, making it easy to quickly go through dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of articles on your phone without having to see them again later.
The Google Reader mobile web site offers a similar feature. But instead of allowing you to scroll continuously, Google Reader on the web shows you 25 articles at a time and then asks if you’d like to see more or mark the above items as read. I’ve found that using the mobile web site I can skim the latest news from hundreds of RSS feeds in less than half the time it would take me to do the same thing using a desktop web browser. The new Google Reader Android app is even faster since you never have to tell it to load more items… you just keep scrolling.
The other major update int he latest version of Google Reader for Android is the addition of widgets. There’s a news ticker widget that lets you show the latest headlines from any category or from all of your unread items.
There’s also an unread count widget which can show the number of unread items in a specific category or from all of your RSS feeds. This widget is the size of a normal app shortcut, so you can place it virtually anywhere on your Android home screen to quickly launch the Google Reader app and immediately open the feed category of your choice.
Of course, another key reason to use the Google Reader native app instead of the mobile web site is that the Android app can sync and cache your RSS feeds so that you can read the news even when you’re offline — although it won’t download photos unless you have an internet connection handy.
Google Reader for Android is available as a free download from the Android Market.