As I’ve said before in reference to Yahoo’s iPad news reader, Livestand, there’s no shortage of magazine-style content apps for the iPad or other tablets and smartphones. The highly honored Flipboard started it all over a year ago, followed by some awesome competitors including Zite and Pulse News, – plus several others. Not to be left out of the mobile content game, Google has released its own cross-platform reader called Google Currents, optimized for iOS and Android devices, but for now only available in the U.S.
If you already use one of the aforementioned iPad or iPhone readers, you’ll probably skip Google Currents, because in its initial version at least there’s not much new or different about this magazine app. However, Google Currents may appeal to potential users looking for a more simple and straightforward tablet or smartphone reader.
Instead of adding direct RSS feeds to Google Currents, you can add featured sites from well over 150 publishers that Google has partnered with. They include Forbes, TechCrunch, AllThingsD, The Huffington Post, ABC News, Al Jazeera, and The Guardian. You can choose sites from other featured topics including Business, Design, Science & Tech, Sports, and your RSS feeds from your Google Reader account.
If you would like to include your own blog site in Google Currents’ subscription service, you can use Google Producer (which requires Chrome) to lay out and add your content.
Each of your subscriptions is represented by an icon on the Home page. You tap and choose one just like you might visit a news-stand and choose your favorite magazines. The first page of content of your subscriptions typically consists of an overview of leading stories, or table of contents of various sections of the online publication. This page is followed by previews of current stories, articles, videos, photos, and so on.
Google Currents also contains Trending stories for world, business, entertainment, sports, health, technology, and science news. You can enable which category of trending news you want to get.
Navigating Google Currents
Google Currents doesn’t have the slick flip page effect of Flipboard or Pulse, but pages do open quickly with a single tap. You can tap on individual stories to start reading them, but you might simply browse a selected publication by swiping from right to left to browse additional pages of article previews.
After you open an article, you can swipe across the screen to view the next or previous article. This type of navigation saves you the trouble of returning to the table of contents page to find more stories. There is also a table of contents button on the bottom-left of the app which will bring up previews of existing stories as well.
Unfortunately, however, in order to switch to another publication you have to tap and return to the Home page. It would better if users could tap a button on the screen and bring up a horizontal list of the Homepage icons to choose from, instead of having to tap the Home button and then tap again to open another publication.
It would also be nice if you a could do a pinch gesture to close a story and return to the home page.
Like other magazine readers, stories in Google Currents can be shared via email, Instapaper, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinboard. You can also tap the +1 Google Recommend, the same way you might with the online results of Google searches.
The search feature for Google Currents also seems to work well. It performs keyword searches across all featured online publications.
And finally, like other readers, Google Currents does have a built-in web browser, so you can open links without having to leave the app. However, in my tests some pages would not open up in the browser.
If you use Google Currents on more than one device, your subscriptions will be synced between devices using your Google account.
Let us know what you think of Google Currents. Will it make it to the homepage of your tablet or smartphone device?