The Kobo Android app is finally out! It is the first major bookstore besides eReader to have an app for the Android platform, and it offers some major advantages, as well as some serious drawbacks. Read on for my review!
First of all, there’s some benefits to Kobo’s system. They believe your book should be available wherever you are, on whatever platform you’re using. So similar to Whispersync, you can start a book on your smartphone and continue it on your computer or another device like the iPad. Unfortunately, at this time the Kobo Reader does not have any sync capabilities, so while you can sync your book through a computer to the Reader, you won’t get the updates.
The app is ok, but nothing to write home about. It’s significantly, light-years better than its predecessor the Shortcovers app, but it still falls short when compared with other Android applications. One big positive is that Kobo has finally recognized the need to store ebooks on the device. You no longer need an internet connection to read on your smartphone! This alone makes the Kobo app a worthwhile download if you have other Kobo books already!
Unfortunately, that’s just about the only positive in the app. Yes, Kobo included a few niceties like font sizing and day/night mode, but frankly those are basic options. They should be available on any ebook program. What’s missing is the option to adjust the brightness or background color, so if BLINDINGLY WHITE COLORS are not your favorite way to read, steer clear. I normally don’t have a problem reading on smartphones, but after a few minutes my eyes were swimming. Generally the first thing I do when I start using an ebook program is set the background color to off-white, grey, beige…essentially anything that’s not pure white. I really miss that option on the Kobo app.
More frustrating than just background colors were two other missing features. There is no landscape mode in the Kobo apps. Even sliding out the Droid’s keyboard didn’t force a landscape mode option. This is a huge oversight; with Android devices in excess of 4″ screens and tablets being announced almost daily, landscape mode is absolutely necessary.
My other frustration is that I can’t use the D-Pad to flip between pages. It might just be my Droid, but I’m finding that touching the screen to turn the page is very finicky. The old “Shortcovers” app had very little going for it, but it did allow you to use the D-Pad to flip pages and it had a landscape mode.
I am a big fan of the concept of Kobo. I think competition is a good thing, and Kobo has the best grasp besides Amazon of the importance of syncing across platforms. Unfortunately, I do feel they seem to consistently fall slightly short on execution. A few tweaks and the app would be a home run; as it stands now it’s somewhere around a double, and that’s mostly on the strength of being the only mainstream ebookstore in the Android Marketplace.
What I liked:
-Automatically syncs Kobo bookshelf
-Stores books offline
-Syncs to web and other Kobo apps
What I didn’t like:
-Slow page turns
-No landscape mode
-No options to change background colors