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App review: Wall Street Journal Tablet Edition for Android

We'd always thought this was going to be the year of Android tablets, but until the day Google gives its full blessing for the tablet form factor, the market will still be lacking in apps that make good use of the extra screen estate. Funnily enough, today the Wall Street Journal took a leap of faith and pushed out an Android version of its tablet app, just in time to ride on the Samsung Galaxy Tab's first wave. In many ways, WSJ's Android app appears to be a slimmed down version of its iPad equivalent. Once logged in with a subscription account, users are greeted by the same start screen for choosing your papers, which are automatically downloaded at launch. Naturally, once the papers are on your device, you can read them regardless of internet connectivity, and you can save your favorites to a dedicated area there for quick access as well. More after the break.

Once you've loaded your desired copy of the paper, you'll be shown the front page, which is comprised of three headline blurbs, three smaller excerpts from the business and finance section, and a feature blurb in the bottom-right corner. Scroll further down and you'll see teasers for posts from the U.S. News and World News sections, most of which come with a little square thumbnail. There's no stock ticker at the top of the page, but you can always pull up a quotes search box using the Android device's menu button at any time. To jump from one section to another, you can either swipe horizontally or use the menu prompted by tapping the top bar -- we prefer the latter to avoid the annoying fullscreen ads cheekily inserted in between sections. Interestingly though, you don't get any ads while swiping through articles, but don't let Rupert Murdoch know about this.

The biggest difference between the iPad version and the Android version of WSJ's app lies in the article layout: rather than splitting the body into multiple columns and spreading them across pages horizontally, the Android version does it all in a single column on a single page. This makes sense in portrait mode given the smaller screen size, but it's not as pleasing to the eye in landscape mode; that said, if you do have a thing for wider paragraphs, then they're certainly tolerable if you pick the large text size -- you can do so using the button with the larger "A" at the bottom right corner of the page. Speaking of which, you'll also find two more buttons next to the text size keys -- one's for jumping to the top of the page, and the other's for jumping to the bottom, just like the "Home" and "End" keys on a desktop keyboard. We haven't been using these four tiny buttons much yet, but they could do with some sizing up to cover more of our fingertip.

Another big difference between the two versions is the way video clips are embedded in the articles. In short: it's not for the short-tempered -- it's bad enough that the articles take almost twice as long to load, but you're also forced to watch them in full screen only; whereas the iPad version lets you watch them right inside the article (like HTML5 videos in iOS' Safari) or in fullscreen mode. In WSJ's defense, this is probably more to do with certain limitations on Android, so here's hoping that Google will throw in some useful tweaks in the near future to aid developers on this matter.


Despite all the shortcomings, we'd say WSJ's done a pretty good job here, especially for being the first major publication to take a dip in this new pool with little support from Google for the tablet form factor. There'll of course be certain limitations if you compare with the iPad version, but we're assuming you've been reading this to see how well the app runs, rather than deciding which device to buy because of the app. Anyhow, if you're picking up an Android tablet soon, it's worth giving this app a shot.