I read YCombinator’s Hacker News religiously—despite grave worries about latent technophilia, Libertarianism, and apolitical attitudes. I tend to do most of my pleasure reading on my Nexus 7 tablet, so I have recently been on the hunt to find a good Hacker News client. In the Google Play store there are many—nearly all free—but they have confusingly similar names and icons. Below, I have attempted to review all credible clients, and offer a quick summary and analysis for each.
My criteria is simple: works well at 7” tablet size, well designed and attractive, permits commenting and upvoting, and bonus points for integration with Instapaper or a mobilizer service.
Hacker News Top Stories (Soju Studios)
Ad-supported (bottom tray), adjusts to 7” screen but is not optimized for it (makes for small finger targets), poor webpage rendering (ugly and glitchy loading, and automatically mobilizes without option to turn off), commenting and voting does not appear to work. Settings button broken/does nothing. Verdict: very poor.
Hacker News Full (Chad Etzel)
This used to be my go-to app for Hacker News, and I used it for over a month—and enjoyed it. It was the best I used after an initial quick tour of the clients, and had all the features I needed (Instapaper integration, Night Mode), and was decent looking (seemingly designed for the 7” tablet screen). However, as of a week ago it stopped showing the stories, and no amount of restarting or uninstalling seems to fix it. Verdict: was good, now broken, may be fixed in future.
This promising-looking client has API errors that prevent it from displaying any comments (at version 1.3.4). Clicking on the story title send you to your web browser, which does the best job of display, is a bit annoying. Verdict: broken, but may be worth a look again later.
Hacker News Beta (Airlock Software)
Renders well on 7” screen, no ads, keeps the top navigation bar on which permits quick access to comments and upvoting. There are a few ugly UI bits (boxes on numbers), but overal this is a decent client. Verdict: check back later to see if I find more problems, but until then, this is a good one!
HN - Hacker News Reader (Manuel Maly)
Good looking client, that has lots of well positioned whitespace and big finger targets for a 7” screen. Settings button is broken/does not work, and there is no way to comment or upvote. Like Hacker News Beta it keeps a navigation bar on the top, but is even better designed. Verdict: damn shame it doesn’t support voting or commenting, because this is a beautiful client.
Hacker News Android (Ricky Laishram)
Attractive design, with a few UI hitches (the target area for the story is only the words, not the entire box), but fully featured. Like others, keeps a navigation bar on the top, which permits opening in external browser (also has a setting to enable opening in external browser automatically), and lets you flip between the story and the comments. Upvoting and commenting supported. Implements non-standard app-sharing view, but still functional. Verdict: looks good, works good—gives Hacker News Beta a run for its money.
Hacker News - Tiny Reader (Vladimir Carrer)
Really just an excuse for advertising. Does not enable in-app comments and voting (kicks you out to your browser). Slow, and not particularly well designed. Verdict: avoid.
Hacker News Reader (Cory Trager)
Ads on top bar, ugly design, and no voting or commenting features. Scales decently to 7”, but is clearly not deisgned for larger screens (small button targets). Integrates with Instapaper, which is a nice feature. Verdict: not the worst app out there, but not full featured and quite ugly. No need to download this one.
Hacker News Droid (Gleb Popov)
Despite being without voting and commenting features, this client is attractively designed and has a bunch of other nice features built in (text mobilizer, Instapaper and Read it Later integration, Night Mode). Annoyingly uses long-presses for primary functions. Verdict: lack of commenting and voting is a non-starter for me.
Now that Hacker News Full is no longer functional, I’m left with two capable replacements: Hacker News Android and Hacker News Beta. Neither are particularly better than Hacker News Full, but both work and do so with some elegance. Both have some minor UI issues, and neither support Instapaper or Night Mode views, but these are small quibbles (since they both include share menus, I can send the links to the Instapaper client).