An emerging breed of mobile news apps offering a magazine-style experience with bolted-on social media functionality are jockeying for consumer love across mobile phones and tablets. Flipboard was one of the first of these visually-enhanced RSS readers, but there are several others such as Zite, Pulse and Yahoo!‘s Livestand. The newest entry making a splash is Google Currents which became available in the U.S. last December. The app is available for Android and IOS platforms on both mobile phones and tablets. (I took it for a test drive on my iPad2 and Infuse 4G Android phone.)
Each of the apps has various strengths and weaknesses, but to find the best fit for your needs requires a moment of introspection about what you want in a news app. Is recreating the visual magazine style experience important to you? How many news outlets do you want to consult on a regular basis? If the number of outlets is high but photos are less important, then you may be better served with a more bare-bones RSS reader.
Another apps feature that doesn’t seem to get discussed often is the ability to be used as a social networking tool. Large numbers of people are now consuming news via social networks. Why? Because that is where they are spending the majority of their time online. That means people are reading, commenting and/or sharing stories their friends and followers have posted that came from other news sources.
If you are a social networker trying to populate your accounts with engaging stories and information, posting news stories offers a great way to accomplish that goal. Especially when you consider the amount of content needed to keep up with your Twitter, Facebook (personal and pages), Google Plus, Pinterest, LinkedIn accounts and maybe a few others. Wow! So a major question also has to be, “Will this program facilitate posting to all my networks?” But first let’s see how the news part works.
My first reaction to Google Currents included a few ooohhs and ahhhs. The photos and fonts create an appealing visual experience and the icons and interface are largely intuitive. The graphical interface is nicely configured and respectful of screen real estate. An added feature, being part of the Google world, is that you can sign in with your Gmail account and the program will sync across all your other devices.
News gets divided into “Library,” which includes all the sources you have added, or “Trending” which is a breaking news feed. “Trending” is also unique because after you click on a headline you are shown a variety of headlines from different publications having to do with that topic. Ultimately, this can result in a lot of clicking as you track down stories on various sites that perhaps are not part of Currents’ 180 partners that offer full length stories on the app. However, it is a great way to make sure you aren’t missing anything, and I suspect many people don’t read past the sub-headline on a lot of stories anyway.
OK, so what’s not to like? Sharing. Firstly, the sharing interface is different between Android and IOS versions. It also does not make posting to G+, Google’s own network, especially robust. Facebook on the other hand works smoothly. Surely, these issues will soon be addressed.
Given the fact that Currents is free and represents a new type of app, I would encourage you, if you haven’t yet explored these magazine-style news readers, to at least give it a try,
As for me, I don’t want to swim against the Current, but there’s something I just love about the speed and simplicity of Google Reader which syncs across all devices, works on the desktop, channels hundreds of news outlets and has great sharing chops. If it ain’t broke…
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