I admit it, I am a news addict. I used to watch cable news constantly in order to keep up with what was happening in the world. However, a few years ago I started using the web to fill my need for news. And ever since I purchased an iPad 2, I've found new ways to enjoy and access a regular dose of timely updates.
A few weeks ago I wrote a review of Zite on my iPhonelife.com blog. Zite is a personalized magazine app that I started using right after I purchased my iPad 2. Over the course of a few months, I came to depend on Zite for almost all of my news. While preparing this review of the Best Personalized Magazine Apps for the iPad, I began a search for apps that might replace Zite in my daily
routine. If I could not find an app that was better than Zite, I wanted to find one with different features.
For this review, I will be comparing Zite, Flipboard, News360 for iPad, and Editions by AOL. While I did not find an app that I consider better than Zite for giving me the news I want to read, I realized that Flipboard is a great way to read links from my Twitter timeline. Sometimes, I like using News360 to see the very latest news.
The first time you use Zite, it gives you the option of scanning your Twitter and Google Reader accounts to determine your interests. In addition, Zite gives you a list of topics to choose from. You can go back and change your selections at any time, and Zite will refresh the list of stories. Zite also allows you to add additional topics that are not in the standard list.
Each time you open Zite, it presents a start screen with thumbnail images along the bottom. Once you swipe on that screen, Zite opens to a Top Stories section, which is the home page. Along the right side, are the other topic sections you've chosen. Zite presents each story as a Headline and Summary. Most stories also contain a thumbnail image.
What I like most about Zite is that it has introduced me to many new sources of news and interesting blogs that I would have never found otherwise. I also love the World News section because it presents stories from newspapers around the world. Living in the United States, it is easy to have a view of world events that is biased, since many of us only read or hear news from a U.S. perspective. Reading stories from news sources around the world changes all of that. I am reminded of the time I lived in Australia and found that the news outlets there covered many more stories from the world at large than the U.S. outlets.
Along with news sources, Zite also presents stories from blogs and other web sites on topics you've chosen. Since I began using Zite, I have greatly increased my reading time, and I have been reading about a wider range of subjects. If you want to take up a new subject, Zite is a great way to get introduced to a whole world of timely information.
When you select one of the stories to read, if possible, Zite opens the story in a Reader View with the text and images of the story extracted from the web page and formatted for easy reading. The Reader View allows the font size and style to be modified. In some cases, the news source does not allow Zite to open the story in Reader View but instead forces the web page to be opened instead. But don't fret, there is a Reader button at the top of the page that allows you to change the story to Reader View.
Zite gives you many ways to share the story with others or save it for later reading including Twitter, Facebook, Email, LinkedIn, Read It Later, Instapaper, Delicious, and Evernote. So far, I have used the connection to Twitter and Instapaper the most.
Zite also allows you to personalize your reading based on whether you like the story, the source frequency, or the subject.
If I could change one thing about Zite, it would be to allow the list of sections to be reordered. Zite organizes the topics into two alphabetical lists that sit on top of each other. The standard list goes on top, and the topics you have added manually display underneath. In my case, this means that Astronomy comes after World News in the list. My favorite reading topic, iPad, is very near the bottom of the list. If I could reorder the list, iPad would be at the very top.
I give Zite 4.5 stars out of 5. If I could reorder the topic list I would give it 5 stars. I highly recommend Zite if you have an iPad and you like to read news and informational blogs. I start every day with Zite and sometimes end my day there also.
Flipboard is a fast way to see what your friends are sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Flickr, and Instagram. Flipboard presents your friends' links in a magazine format. Also, it provides posts and videos from many popular publications including Wired, National Geographic, Engadget, The Economist, BBC Breaking News, and many others.
When you launch Flipboard, you are presented with a series of large square tiles with each one representing one of your favorite sources. Taping on one of the squares, takes you to the posts from that source laid out in a headline and summary style very similar to Zite. Tapping on the headline opens the full article.
Unlike Zite, Flipboard does not have a Reader View nor can you change the font size. This is one reason it will not replace Zite on my iPad. The Reader View is one of the main reasons I love using Zite.
Once you open the full article, if the article is more than one page long, you can flip through it. At the bottom of the page you can see the original post, and you have the ability to share the post with others.
The other reason I do not like Flipboard over Zite, is the static nature of its list of news sources. Zite continually finds new sources of news for each of my chosen subject areas. To add a new source to your favorites in Flipboard is a manual process and you choose from a static list of sources.
When you launch Flipboard, you can also select sources to read using the red ribbon at the top right of the screen. This shows a list of sources organized by subject. Like the list of sources, the list of subjects is also static. Here again, I like how Zite allows you to add additional subjects. Choosing a subject presents a list of sources, and you can tap to read the posts from that source.
I give Flipboard 3 stars out of 5. It needs a Reader View, the ability to add additional subjects and the ability to add any source.
News360 for iPad
News360 is an aggregator of over 1,000 different news sources from the web. The main page of News360 has a list of categories on the left, which can be hidden. The main portion of the screen is a list of stories for the currently selected category. When you first install News360, it contains a wide variety of categories such as Latest News, Top News, World, U.S., Business, and Tech. You can also add new categories and choose which sources you want to appear. It seems that the list of sources is static. But at least News360 lets you build custom categories, which is a nice feature.
Being the news addict that I am, I really like the Latest News category. Selecting a story within a category opens a summary of the story with multiple tabs, one for each source that has the same or a related story. The last tab shows you how many other stories there are, for example: "547 more...". Selecting a tab shows the summary from that source.
At the bottom of the summary, is a pointer that you can drag up to reveal the original web page. A Reader View is not provided, however you can double-tap or pinch to zoom. While you're in the summary view, there is also a scroll list of images and videos from the various sources that you can select and scroll through.
News360 also lets you view the stories organized within the categories by sources instead of by story. In this view, you are presented with thumbnail images for each story that scroll left and right to allow you to choose a story. Each source has one row of thumbnails. Selecting a thumbnail image opens the summary view of the story.
I give News360 for the iPad 3.5 stars out of 5. It needs a Reader View and the ability to add any source.
Editions by AOL
Editions by AOL was released on the iPad in early August. It is described as a personalized daily magazine. It is truly a daily magazine because unlike all of the other apps reviewed for this article, it is only updated once per day. Also, Editions does not update until you open it. There seems to be a much longer wait to start reading Editions than the other magazine apps in this review. Given that Editions was an AOL publication, I had high hopes for it. However it just did not offer anything new.
The home screen of Editions shows a magazine style cover. Tapping the home screen brings up a page that shows a summary of the cover story, your local weather and your calendar events for the day. Swipe to the left and the table of contents screen appears. This screen shows a few stories in this day's Edition, and it has a place to tap to reveal a scroll area on the left which lists all of the articles. You can also tap the bottom of the screen to get a menu bar which will allow you to open a sections scroll area.
You can choose to navigate to an individual article from the article scroll or a section from the section scroll or swipe left and right to move through the magazine page by page.
You can personalize each section of the magazine by adding sources you wish to read from a static list. This method of personalization is similar to all of the apps here except for Zite.
Within each section, the articles are arranged in a headline and summary view. Selecting an article launches the article in a web view screen. This lets you read the article as it appears on the web. You can double tap or pinch to zoom. Editions does not provide a Reader View, but it does allow you to share an article via Twitter and Facebook.
I give Editions by AOL 2.5 stars out of 5. It is a daily magazine in a world of constantly changing news.