One of the advantages of carrying a smart phone is that you can fill it with digital content to keep yourself entertained on the go. There is a robust e-book ecosystem on mobile platforms, but comics haven’t reached quite the same level. That’s not to say you don’t have options. Whether you’re looking for an all-in-one solution, or a more DIY option, Android has you covered.
Read on as we go over three popular apps to get you reading comics on your phone with a minimum of effort.
If you’re out for an easy and integrated experience, the ComiXology Comics app could be for you. Comics has over 4500 titles available, 300 of which are free. Since this app lets you buy and sync your comic purchases, the set up is a little arduous. You will need to set up a ComiXology account and make sure you have a payment method attached to your Google Checkout account.
Browsing the store is fairly simple. There is a featured tab at the top where you can get a quick sampling of the app’s offerings. Under this tab is the main featured area, Just added, and Free. If you want to search, you’ll need to go to the Store tab at the top. Placing the search box here is a little counter intuitive, but it pulls up the content we want quickly. The Store tab is also where you can drill down by publisher, series, and more.
Once you’ve found something you want to download, just hit the button at the bottom. For free comics, this will start the download immediately. If you are buying a comic, the new Android in-app billing window will pop up. This is a much more convenient way to buy comics than the old method of entering separate billing information.
Where the Comics app really shines is in the reading interface. It is intuitive and uniquely powerful. Each comic file you get from ComiXology is set up in their “Guided View” system. You are shown the story panel by panel. Tapping on the left and right edges of the screen advances in that direction. Sometimes, it isn’t even an entire panel you are shown. It may just be half of one. The goal is to put you in the story so you experience it as the author intended with no sneaking a peek ahead.
If you’re not so keen on the regular Guided View experience, you can go into the settings and have the app show you the entire page upon entering, or exiting it. You can use multi-touch zooming at any time to get a closer look, and it’s really useful in these full page views.
The app makes good use of smooth transitions and letterboxing to maintain a polished experience while viewing different sized panels. Overall, performance is stellar. If Comics has the content you want, it’s a great choice.
If you are set up to make your own CBR or CBZ files from content you own, an app like Droid Comic Reader may be able to serve your needs. You’ll have to move your files onto the phone’s SD card, then point Droid Comic Reader to them. There is no integrated store like in Comics.
When you load up a CBR or CBZ file, Droid Comic Viewer will open to the first page with little in the way of instructions. There are translucent buttons in the bottom corners to go forward and back. You can also swipe left and right to change pages.
By default, Droid Comic Viewer will load each page partially zoomed in. You can drag to get to the start of the page, and it is usually a good zoom level to read and see the artwork. If you want to change the zoom level, the app supports multi-touch zooming, and it works very smoothly. A feature in the settings that we ended up using lets you scale the page to fit either screen width or height. This way you get a look at the page before you zoom in and start reading.
A quick swipe up will open the system menu. From here you can rotate the screen (if you have the orientation lock turned on), share a screen, or browse the comic. If you pull up the browsing interface, it will display a scrollable list of pages you can select from. It’s a useful feature actually.
Droid Comic Viewer does not have the same flashy transitions as the Comics app, but it does perform well. Panning across pages is fine, as is the loading of each page. This app is more stripped down, but it gets the job done. Droid Comic Viewer is free.
The free Perfect Viewer app is a more robust comic reader for Android. Like Droid Comic Viewer, it does not have an integrated store, so that means making or downloading your own CBR/CBZ files. The interface is more refined and there is even a virtual bookshelf interface for perusing your collection.
Perfect Viewer opens up with a menu asking what sort of content you’ll be looking at. You can pick from novels, images, and comics. The screen before you’ve loaded anything is a complex grid of buttons that will be accessible while reading. Once you get used to these, Perfect Viewer is incredibly easy to navigate.
Pages are loaded up fit to the screen height, so you will need to zoom in to get to reading. Zooming is accomplished with the on-screen virtual buttons, or with a multi-touch gesture. Page advancing is accomplished with the on-screen buttons, or a swipe gesture. You can enable transitions in the settings if you want, but they are off by default. Speaking of the settings, Perfect Viewer has a huge number of options. You can control backlight, scrolling distance, image caching, button layout, and lots more.
Perfect View includes some interesting image smoothing functions. This is quite useful when you’re scaling larger images to a small screen. Averaging mode is the default, and does a good job, but you can step it up to Bilinear, Bicubic, or Lanczos3 if you like. Some of the higher quality settings will eat up memory and could cause a crash, so be aware.
Perfect viewer is an attractive option for reading comics on Android. The interface is a little confusing at first, but it can be quite powerful once you get used to it.
You’ve certainly got options when it comes to reading comics on Android. If you want to buy new content and have a very polished experience, Comics by ComiXology is for you. If you don’t mind going through the hassle of making CBR/CBZ files, Droid Comic Viewer and Perfect Viewer are both good. Droid Comic Viewer is the more barebones, simple approach, whereas Perfect Viewer is overflowing with features to the point it can be a little tough to figure out. Do you read comics on Android? How do you go about it?