Google Play Magazines (Android)
CNET Editors' Rating: 4.0 / 5
The good: Google Play Magazines is easy to navigate, and downloaded issues are viewable while offline.
The bad: Sometimes lags when loading pages.
The bottom line: If you're looking for a way to subscribe to and read digital magazines, then Google Play Magazines is a fantastic choice.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
Google Play Magazines is probably the least popular of Google's media-centric "Play" apps for Android. The app lets you purchase and read magazines, in high resolution, right on your Android device. Similar to Google Play Books, the Magazines app can save you from having to lug around a stack of printed issues.
Before you get started, head over to Google Play to find some magazines to read. You can either purchase individual issues or subscribe (monthly or yearly) to a title, right from the Google Play store. For the most part, Google Play's prices for magazines are comparable to Zinio's (a popular competitor). Some titles are more expensive on Google Play, while others are cheaper. But the majority of titles available through both services are about the same price.
After you stock up on magazines, you'll have to download them onto your device in order to read them. You can set Google Play Magazines to automatically download purchases and subscriptions without asking, but you should check your local storage space before enabling the feature, as some magazines can exceed 1GB in size. The great thing is that once an issue is downloaded, you can view it even without an active data connection.
Like many of Google's homegrown Android apps, Google Play Magazines leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to visual design. The main dashboard consists of only a flat black screen with the covers of your purchased magazines laid out in rows. To get a slightly more attractive carousel-style interface, switch to View Recent.
Once you open up an issue, flipping through pages is a snap. You can swipe left and right one by one, or tap to pull up page thumbnails for faster flipping. There's also a table of contents on the bottom-left, though it's mostly text based, which isn't quite as fun as the thumbnails. If the text on a page gets too small to read, the pinch-and-zoom gesture helps. Otherwise, you can switch to a fully text-based version of any page, which kills most of the visuals, but gives you the option to change text size to enhance readability.
For the most part, tablets and phones offer similar viewing experiences (except for the screen size, of course). A vertical screen shows you a single page at a time, while a horizontal orientation gives you a full-page spread.
When it comes to performance, Google Play Magazines could use some work. Even though issues were saved locally on my devices, I routinely experienced some lag when loading, with some pages taking a few seconds to show up. Some users have complained that pages failed to load altogether, but I didn't experience the issue in my tests.
Overall, if you're into magazines and you love doing your reading on your mobile devices, Google Play Magazines is a fantastic choice. Since Android users are already fairly locked into the ecosystem, buying subscriptions and individual issues through the Google Play service should be a snap. We hope some of the performance issues are addressed in the next version of the app.
Average User Rating: 4.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
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Rating: / 5
on December 31, 1969
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