Review: Users in India and elsewhere can benefit from Hao123: Reader & Sites

Organize your local and international news and sites with tiles.

Baidu's Hao123: Reader & Sites is an Indian-oriented browser/start app for Android that's customizable for your location. It streams local, national, and international news and business updates, displays images, forecasts the weather, and lets you quickly access Google, Facebook, or any sites. Hao123 is free for Android devices.

Hao123's tile-based layout is functional, though the look might be too functional for some tastes, especially since so many Android apps now equal or surpass desktops in appearance. Hao123 displayed our local weather and an optional gallery view at the top and a scrolling image at the bottom, with a streaming news feed and tiles accessing Web sites, a reader, and other features in between. Swiping revealed a second page with Twitter, YouTube, and other popular sites as well as a daily horoscope. If you're not happy with the defaults, the first order of business is to customize the view. We pressed the "Add" button on the sidebar to open the Subscription menu, which offered Sites, News, Horoscope, Weather, or Pictures. The selections display the app's geographical focus; for instance, the preset list in Weather offers only cities in India, though we could search other locations and add them to the menu.

Bigger screens, cheaper bandwidth, and more memory and processing power for Android mean less need for less-is-more layouts like the tile style, although it remains an efficient way to organize and access stuff. Hao123's focus on India doesn't limit its usefulness in other regions, but as with the default Weather options, you might have to perform a few extra steps to get the sources and locations you want.

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