Flipboard, an app that has long been popular since the early days of the first generation iPad. It may not be the best or most efficient RSS reader app available on iOS, but it certainly is one of the most beautiful and well designed reader in the App Store. Instead of laying out stories as a list or a grid, it presents the content as if you are reading a magazine or a newspaper. Yesterday, it has finally released its popular app on the iPhone, and we go hands-on to explore how Flipboard has transformed its iPad experience onto a smaller screen of the iPhone.
At first glance, the interface is seems familiar yet a little foreign. You can notice the familiar red tab on the top right corner and section for "Cover Stories" taking up two-thirds of the home screen. Tapping on the red tab brings down a familiar menu showing "Your Flipboard" (your feeds and the order they are in), accounts, tops stories of the week, and a slew of Flipboard curated sections of feeds. But flipping right won't get you anywhere.
At the bottom of the home page is your top two feeds and swiping up brings up the second page, where your following six feeds are displayed. Flipboard users should feel right at home with the grid format, as it is simply a miniature version of the iPad app. Each user is capped at 4 pages, bringing the total number of feeds displayed to 20, matching that of the iPad version. If you have additional feeds it will show up by tapping the red tab under "Your Flipboard." This restriction has been somewhat of a mystery, even to us at Unplggd, we're not sure how much extra effort it is to add a few more pages of feeds.
You can select a feed by tapping on its icon, and that will bring up the latest story from that particular feed. Stories are displayed on at a time and flipping up will take you to the next story. The controls are intuitive and easy to understand, but the stories with pictures are displayed one at a time, without any excerpt to show you what the article is about. The only text shown is the title of the article, and a few lines of the related tweet.
Tapping on the "Cover Stories" brings up stories that Flipboard "personalized" for you. In another words, things that your friends shared with you on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. For us, it is an aggregated section for all our social media updates. We do like the ability to "mute" an author, which is essentially blocking a source from showing up in your cover stories.
If you've been using Flipboard on iPad, you should've noticed that recent updates brought the inception of Flipboard accounts where users can store their feeds and layout. For those of you that signed up with Flipboard, it will be painless to transfer your feeds. Simply sign into your account and all your feeds will show up in the order you left them. You can also sign into your Google Reader account, which will make Google reader its own feed with all the stories aggregated under the same feed.
Controls in Flipboard on iPhone is very similar to the iPad version. There are two ways to edit your feeds. One way is to do it directly in grid level, simply hold one of the tile and wait till it allows you to move them, much like how you would rearrange icons in iOS. Another way is to go into the red tab and rearrange from "Your Flipboard", simply tap on edit and you'll be able to delete or change the order of the feeds.
Flipboard is an app that you're either going to love or hate. You'll love it if you're a casual reader who wants your content to be presented in a beautiful way and don't need to be constantly updated on every single story from all your feeds. The app itself is intuitive and will be very easy to pick up. The flipping animation is just fun to watch and brings back the nostalgia of print on paper.
But if you need your reader app to be efficient and can't miss a story because your job depends on it, then Flipboard may not be for you. The way the stories are presented is clumsy, looking at one story at a time with only the title will often require you to click into a story in order to determine whether the story is important. And with the feeds divided, you're required to click back and forth between feeds in order to make sure you've looked at everything. We'd recommend giving Pulse or feedly a shot if you need efficiency but still wants a well thought out user interface.
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