App Review: Flipboard

Flipboard (iTunes link), free, is an iPad application that simulates a virtual magazine or a virtual newspaper based on RSS feeds. The thing that differentiates this application from, say, Project (another virtual magazine application or iPad) is that since it uses RSS feeds, and you get to choose the content that is displayed in the application.


Flipboard creates the magazine based on RSS feeds that you choose. From Forbes to Engadget, from E! Online to USA Today, there are so many feeds for you to choose from by default. Of course, not every RSS feed has been included in this application, but if there is a certain feed that you would like to have access to, then you can just add that RSS feed to your own Google Reader account and sync that account with Flipboard. And there you go, it’s just that simple!

When this application first came out, I wasn’t very impressed. It was an interesting take for an RSS reader/magazine, but functionality-wise, it wasn’t that great. As far as I can remember, there weren’t that many feeds, so there wasn’t anything that made me see this as just another RSS reader. But once the latest update (v1.1) went live on December 16th, I saw this in a whole new way. This update was a huge update and made a huge difference for me. This update added Google Reader integration (which I had briefly described earlier), Flickr integration, Facebook integration and Twitter integration (as seen in Figure 1). With this update, people can now browse their favorite photos on Flickr, their friends’ new photos on Facebook, their favorite celebrities’ new tweets on Twitter and much more!

Figure 1: Google Reader, Flickr, Facebook and Twitter integration

The only thing that I wish this application had is a way to manually update your feeds. It’s not a huge issue, but it is something I wish it had included. Also, I’d like to note that even with Facebook and Twitter integration, this application doesn’t include every Facebook or Twitter feature. For example, I don’t think you can read or reply to inbox messages or chat on Facebook and I don’t think you can read or reply to direct messages on Twitter. So even though this is a great application, it is dedicated for a more casual crowd who want to do quick check ups, whereas more ‘hardcore’ Facebook or Twitter users may prefer a dedicated application.


Graphical User Interface (GUI)

This application has a very simple and clean interface. When you first launch the application, you are greeted with the cover of the magazine. The cover is basically a slideshow of images taken from recent feeds, Facebook or Flickr photos, tweets etc.

After admiring the cover, you can then flip to the next page, by swiping to the left, and you will be presented with the first of two contents pages. The contents pages have a tile-like interface, each tile representing a different feed (Figure 2). There are a total of 21 tiles, so you can add a total of 21 feeds. If there is a case in which a person would like more, they can just add some (or all) of their feeds to their Google Reader account and just sync that. So instead of having 21 different RSS feeds on 21 different tiles, they can have all their RSS feeds on their Google Reader account, which will only take one tile. The bad thing about this is that it won’t be as organized. If they are all synced with your Google Reader account, all your feeds will be mixed up, so it’ll be hard for someone to read through one specific feed.

Figure 2: The first of two contents pages

Now let’s get to the actual pages of the magazine. Each article of the RSS feed is displayed in its own block on the page, like a magazine. Each page is automatically organized depending the size of the article and whether there are images or YouTube videos embedded within the article (Figure 3). If there is an image, the image may get cut off, so the application tries to show as much of the image as possible. If there is a YouTube video, it will display a thumbnail and by tapping it, a pop-up will appear which will allow you to view the video within the app. This is a nice feature because I wouldn’t exactly be happy if I were forced to switch to the YouTube application to view every video (Figure 4). The application doesn’t display the whole article, but by just tapping on an article, a pop-up will appear. This will display the full article, all the images, and videos.

Figure 3: Pages are automatically organized by content

Figure 4: Viewing a YouTube video within Flipboard

Another feature to look at is the little shortcut bar on the bottom of magazine, which can prove to be incredibly useful. You just have to run your finger through the bar to switch to another page. While running your finger along the bar, another little pop-up will appear, which tells you what articles are on that page so you can just skip that page if it doesn’t interest you.


Reuse Value:

For someone who wants to keep up-to-date with their RSS feeds, Facebook friends, Twitter followers etc and doesn’t mind an all-in-one application, they will find great use in Flipboard. There are, of course, alternative applications for the features included in this application. There are dedicated RSS readers, dedicated Twitter clients etc, so if someone preferred those applications to this one, then they won’t be using Flipboard as much or even at all.


Value for Money:

Well, this is a free application, so it can’t really get better then that. It is definitely not for everyone, but if it intrigued you in any way, it is definitely worth checking out. And since it is free, there’s nothing to lose even if you don’t like it.


Overall Score:

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