When it launched in December 2010, Flipboard was an app that had Apple’s executives grinning from ear to ear. Designed exclusively for the iPad, it allowed users to consume their usual online content from an elegant and tactile UI and the app enjoyed its well-deserved time in the limelight as one of the tablet’s best apps.
Flipboard for iPhone followed not long after, and over the last few years has seen further refinement on the smaller screen, and recently an Android port. If you’re one of the growing number of people who read their favourite websites on their smartphone, then an app like Flipboard comes highly recommended.
What Is Flipboard?
As an iPhone owner for a number of years now, I’ve used my fair share of news reader apps. To date, my favourite has been Pulse which functions both as a Google Reader aggregator and as a standalone news reader. I remember trying the early iPhone version of Flipboard, which was just a scaled-down version of the iPad app and came away feeling particularly unimpressed. So, for the purposes of this review this is the first time I’ve used the mobile optimized version that now packs audio content too.
Flipboard is like one big digital edition of your favourite magazine, loosely curated by you. I say loosely, because when starting out you’ll be asked to pick a few categories you’re interested in and with the tap of a button your ever-updating digital magazine is ready. Content is aggregated from various web sources, and grouped into categories with little choice provided over where the content comes from.
For technology news, TechCrunch seems to be used heavily while I saw plenty of other news from The Daily Telegraph (UK) on the British edition, something you can change .
The service also allows you to connect, among others, a Google Reader account. If you’ve got a carefully crafted Google account full of RSS feeds then Flipboard might just be the perfect companion. If you don’t use Google Reader or can’t be bothered connecting any external accounts then Flipboard will still serve you well, just don’t expect to have much of a say over where the content in these channels comes from.
Of course, if you do want a specific source you’ll only need to open the content guide using the red bookmark button in the top right, browse from the hundreds of sources and click add. For RSS feeds, specific Twitter users and other websites just search for it and whatever you add will be added to the end of your Flipboard. The main channels and any extra sources you add can be reorganised anyway you like using the faithful tap-and-hold method you would use to organise your iPhone’s home screen, which is great.
You don’t actually need to subscribe to any channels, and could add only the websites you like to read and your various compatible accounts. This makes Flipboard a completely customisable reader that should please both casual browsers, social media types and picky newshounds alike.
Get Yourself Connected
By far one of the best uses for Flipboard is its ability to take your existing accounts and present your most oft-used services in one app, often in a more attractive way than a dedicated app. In addition to Facebook and one of the best-looking Twitter feeds I’ve ever seen, you can peruse many of your other channels of interest from within the confines of this single app. Adding Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and so on also allows you to quickly share any articles you’d like.
Flipboard chews through a variety of content in a very elegant manner, in fact I don’t think I’ve seen a reader app handle content from such a range of services so well. Reading text is a given, the app handles both news channels and RSS feeds with ease but connect a few of your other accounts and you’ll see what I mean.
For each service you add, there is a drop-down menu at the top of the section for navigation. This provides complete access to your Tumblr, YouTube or even SoundCloud account. So you can check blog posts you have liked, see your YouTube watch list and listen to incoming sounds from a particular user on SoundCloud. None of these services are crippled, you can even reblog to your followers, participate in the perpetual battleground that is the YouTube comment system and Like incoming songs.
Another of my favourite features is the ability to listen to audio content, for example SoundCloud, while using the app’s other features. So you can read Twitter while listening to your incoming SoundCloud tracks, with the ability to control the music without interrupting your reading via the control panel in the top left. If you use SoundCloud, Tumblr and YouTube purely for consuming content, then you can get rid of 3 separate apps right there and do it all from Flipboard.
There are plenty of reasons to give Flipboard a go, especially if you’ve never used the app before. It can be as complex or simple as you like – add your sources, access everything in one place and with proper contextual navigation you might find that you don’t need a whole set of separate apps any more. There’s a good reason the web loves Flipboard – try it out and you might just decide you love it too.