As compared to their iOS counterparts, Android users had to wait for a long time to get their hands on the official Wikipedia client on their devices. Although the official Android app of the world’s most frequently accessed online encyclopedia has proved to be a winner among most third-party clients, it certainly has its share of shortcomings. Personally speaking, I feel that the app can be made a lot more intuitive and user-friendly, especially from the in-app navigation perspective. Moreover, the bookmarking and offline reading aspect of the app can also be improved significantly. Now, if your Android device happens to be rocking Ice Cream Sandwich or higher, we have a very handy alternative that not only addresses said issues quite aptly, but also presents you with the world of Wikipedia through a beautifully designed, Holo-theme UI. Currently in beta, LoboWiki is the latest to join the list of promising unofficial Wikipedia clients for Android, and is arguably the best among those sporting true Android 4.0 goodies. The app uses a unique article queuing system to list out your searched topics, as well as embedded Wikipedia links, and pre-fetches complete content included within each topic to let you read your favorite articles in offline mode.
Though far from being a finished release, LoboWiki already impresses with the list of features included within this debut beta. Despite supporting a plethora of global languages, the app’s content is currently available only in English. In addition, it is not yet available in as tablet-optimized flavor. It must also be noted that LoboWiki is meant to be your pocket Wikipedia reader on Android, since it doesn’t support content editing in any way.
Brushing the missing bits aside, let’s now divert our focus on what we do get with LoboWiki. Unlike the official Wikipedia app, LoboWiki doesn’t greet you with the Featured Article and In The News page. Instead, it launches directly to a screen that is dedicated to queuing your favorite articles/topics that you search using the in-app query feature. Real-time search suggestions help you easily and instantly look for desired topics. Tapping a suggestion from within the search list automatically queues that particular topic to the app’s homescreen, whereas hitting the search button again takes you to the search result screen, from where you may queue the required topic with a tap. Content under each queued article is automatically downloaded, complete with images, and remains available in offline mode as well. On this note, it must be mentioned that the queuing time is dependent on the amount of content available under the selected topic.
Head over to an article, and you’re presented with yet another remarkable feature of LoboWiki: the table of contents. Tapping the bullets button at the top reveals the context-sensitive table of contents for the current article, which makes navigating to the required subtopic/segment a breeze. Images embedded within articles can be tapped to view in full-screen, whereas tapping an anchor text automatically adds the relevant topic to the queue. The entire article, along with subtopics, is presented on a solitary screen that can be scrolled vertically. Alternatively, you may use volume rocker keys to scroll through articles. Rendering of Wikipedia pages and images is as smooth as it gets, and for topics that include a dedicated information/data table, you get a dedicated ‘Show table’ tab at the top.
We’re not done with LoboWiki here. While reading a specific article, you may swipe sideways to switch to other topics in the queue. The checkbox at the top, if ticked, lets you mark the article as ‘read’ and removes it from the queue. However, if this button is left unchecked, you can access that particular topic from the list as many times as you wish. There is also a generic option relevant to the said feature within the app’s settings screen, which, if left checked, helps you mark each topic as read as soon as you open it. If, however, you want your queued topics to remain accessible offline, it is advisable to keep this particular option unchecked.
As mentioned earlier, LoboWiki is currently aimed at Android users who’re looking to just explore required Wikipedia content on the go via a visually appealing UI. Going by the developer’s word, upcoming iterations of LoboWiki will be bringing some very nifty and sought-after features, including article formatting, font adjustment, local language support, Text-To-Speech (TTS), search history, article bookmarking, and last, but not the least, full fledge support for Android tablets.
Note that LoboWiki requires Android 4.0 or higher to run, and can be downloaded via the link provided below.