iPhone – Flipboard, Currents or Zite?

Magazines of the future are here today and reside in multiplicity in apps on your mobile device. The competition has heated up recently with several new entries in the field. All present news, current events and articles in a visual and attractive fashion. Each with their own modes of displaying, organizing, selecting and sharing your desired content that will help you decide which one fits your information flow best.

Flipboard started on the iPad and is now available for iPhone too. A model of visual functionality that is described perfectly by its name, Flipboard is very easy to learn to use. They get high marks for ease of use to set up your content choices and sources. Flipboard also makes it easy to tie into your social media accounts. Add Google Reader to your content stream as well. Flipboard is the benchmark right now.

Currents is Google’s brand new offering. To get started you sign in with your Google ID. You begin with standard free content sources, implying possible premium content may added later. Change your content sources and categories by navigating through the settings. You can also add your Google Reader sources, although I had to sign out and back in again for them to show up in my feed. Currents has plenty of choices for information, but I found the app to be less user friendly and straightforward to set up than Flipboard or Zite. My other complaint is that Currents spends a lot of time syncing, even with a decent wi-fi connection, and sometimes the pages get a bit sticky. A few times the app would completely stop for a few seconds before returning to normal operation. The app is not quite as stark to look at as some of the other Google apps and is pleasing visually without being over done.

Zite is extremely easy to set up, easy to navigate while using and pleasing to look at at too. Zite uses algorithms to train itself to cater to your desired content. This may give less direct control over desired content and I’ll pass judgement after more time with the app to see how well it performs. Zite can use your Twitter, Google and Read It Later accounts to help find content that interests you although it is not required. Zite is a pleasure to use and read content with. It is responsive and fairly snappy. Very easy to navigate to different categories with its top navigation bar or simply swiping side to side on the pages. Easy to share to social media or visit the originating website.

Content is king. In the long run the biggest fights between these competing apps are likely to be more in content sourcing than in app functionality. At this point Flipboard has the edge, but it has existed longer as an iPad app thereby giving them a head start in the information race. However, CNN purchased Zite so they obviously see an avenue of opportunity. Google certainly is already in the news and information game in a big way, so Currents fits right into their plan.

My hope would be for the majority of content sources to be available on multiple apps. That would allow users to choose the app that suits them best for most of their information flow. Eventually some sources will be exclusive or charge for premium content and then the user will have to use the app where that source is available. There are already examples of content available on one app, but not others. But, there are so many ways to obtain information beyond apps, and then again beyond mobile devices, it would make sense for app developers and content providers to keep that in mind.

These apps are so useful to grab some quick news and information at anytime, any day while on the go. They have become quite popular in a relatively short time and their usage growth continues to rise rapidly. So far Flipboard is my favorite for functionality, content and ease of use. It is more mature than the other two apps and is actually fun to use without being gimmicky. Zite is the easiest to navigate and is my second favorite. The down side for Zite is not enough direct control of content. Currents seems more complex than it needs to be at times. It is also has more performance issues than the other two. It does give provide good control, especially with Google Reader where you can select which individual Reader news sources will show up in your Currents feed. Bottom line, I’ll use Flipboard as first choice, but continue to read Zite and Currents as well to see how they all continue to develop.

Which reader is your favorite and why?

Chris Nielsen – Notion Tree

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