The Best PDF Readers for Android

One of the best things about the transition into the smart-devices age was the ability to stop relying on so much paper. Suddenly, documents no longer had to be shared in print copies, costing thousands of dollars a month for large companies dealing in huge amounts of paper, printers, and ink cartridges. Instead of being forced to carry hard copies of dozens of important files, notes, and documents around your work or home—risking both misplacing and damaging your paperwork—you can keep every possible document you could ever need one inside one device, be it a phone, a tablet or a laptop. You can even upload documents to the cloud, to be accessed, edited, and shared from anywhere around the globe.

And while most have decided on a single file type for our documents—the universally accessible PDF, or Portable Document Format—the apps we use to read these documents are a bit less universal. One search on the Play Store for a PDF reader will reveal to you the ultimate truth about PDF readers: there are hundreds of them available for sale, and none of them are very good. It’s difficult to tell which ones are worth downloading and which ones aren’t—and that’s where we come in. We’ve tried and tested more than a dozen different PDF applications to find out which of the bunch you should keep on your phone or tablet, and only half of the apps we tested made the cut.

These are the best PDF readers you can download right now on Android.

Everyone else
Google PDF Viewer

Google's PDF Viewer is the pinnacle of the "just make it work" style of app development that we don't see too often on the Play Store. Google's designed their PDF reader for those of us who aren't reading multiple PDFs every day. For those users, they aren't in need of flashy gimmicks, designs, or abilities—they just need something to be able to read a PDF they downloaded from the internet or were sent over email. Google's efforts here get the job done—it's a fast, quick, and efficient PDF reader that opens large files quickly, zooms and scrolls smoothly, and can print documents directly from the menu display. There's a sliding tab on the right-side of the display to be able to scroll up and down long documents quickly, and a share button that allows for the PDF to be emailed or shared over Google Drive. Finally, there's a fairly-robust search feature that allows for your PDF to be searched by key words and sentences. But all in all, that's about it—not much is ultimately offered by PDF Viewer that isn't offered elsewhere. If you're bouncing back and forth between twenty different documents a day, this isn't the app for you. It's an application for the readers who need a reliable, ad-free PDF experience that won't bog down their phone or tablet with unnecessary features and functions, and for that alone, it earns a spot on our list among the more fully-featured apps.

PocketBook

PocketBook is one of the older PDF readers on our list, and the interface shows: it's not ugly, but it's not quite as clean-looking as both of our top picks. PocketBook's gimmick, for lack of a better phrase, is the ability to view your PDFs as if they were eBooks, an idea we've seen both Adobe Acrobat and Xodo flirt with but never commit to using. Part of the benefit to this is, if you're primarily using PDF readers to view documents that have covers or titles, you can view them in a grid format that makes it easy to choose and select which PDF you're looking for. PocketBook also contains support for a ton of non-PDF formats, including EPub and MOBI, two common file types for eBooks. Clearly, PocketBook is intended for those readers looking not to edit and annotate PDFs, but to view them as books or novels. And it works well: the reader, though not necessarily formatted well for tablets, allows for an enjoyable reading experience, complete with page-flip animations enabled by default and a quick-access wheel of functions and options you'd want from an eReader application. The app isn't quite as fast at loading large PDFs as something like Xodo, but for those readers looking for something to read publications through PDF form and don't want or need annotating features, PocketBook is a solid, free choice.

Foxit PDF

Foxit Reader is another solid PDF offering, even if it doesn't quite meet the highs offered by both Acrobat and Xodo. The app works similarly to our top two offerings, automatically loading in every PDF located on your device, as well as a "Getting Started" PDF to read explaining how the app works. The app's design is nice and inoffensive, but not quite as well-organized as some of the better apps listed on this device. Foxit uses its own cloud services to load in your documents, and while it's reliable, we prefer to use Google Drive (which does have support here, but it's a bit more hidden that Foxit's own service). The app opens large documents rather quickly, though it doesn't reach the speed offered by Xodo, and often has to load new pages after displaying every two or three selections when flipping quickly through the app. You can do much of the same annotation and edits that are available through Xodo, including signing documents. But the app isn't free, offering in-app purchases to unlock the fully-fledged version of the app, whereas Xodo offers just as much compatibility for absolutely no cash. It's not a bad service by any means, and no doubt Foxit has its fair share of fans. But overall, Foxit leaves a bit to be desired throughout day-to-day use.

Moon+ Reader

Moon+ Reader is one of the few selections on our list that isn't entirely free; the app contains both advertisements and in-app purchases for upgrade to pro versions of the application. Much like PocketBook, the app is designed to treat your PDFs like eBooks, with support for additional file types like MOBI, EPub, CBR, and CBZ. The app even comes with a free eBook of Alice in Wonderland, used to demo how exactly the app works, with page up formatted on the left, and page down formatted on the right. If you're looking for your options, a simple tap in the very middle of the display will bring up all your settings. Overall, it's a solid eBook app, with similar design and function to PocketBook but in a slightly-more modern take on how an eBook app should work and look. You can even view your files on a virtual bookshelf, similar to the design popularized by iBooks on the iPad back in the early 2010s. Most notably, you can view reading stats on how many books you've read, how much time you've spent reading, and you can even bring in books from assorted free publications over the internet. One big downside to Moon+ Reader: it doesn't seem to automatically find PDF files on your device, meaning one additional step exists before you can eventually get to reading your PDFs. Moon+ isn't a bad eBook reader app, but if you're looking for something to use for PDFs, it's best to look elsewhere on this list.

Posted by William Sattelberg on June 3, 2017

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