NOTE: This post is part of our “The 10 Best iPad Applications for News” series. Do check back and view the latest reviews.
Who needs Inception? We’ve formed our own world here in these pixels; a society formed brick by brick, tag by tag and like by like. And now our society has its own ‘glossy’.
Flipboard is the natural extension of the consumer-driven, news delivery ecosystem that is the iPad. The content here is not just chosen by us, it is us; our lives and our tweets. Flipboard is highly relevant in our current social targeting phenomenon, where corporations are hungry to know our friends and our tastes; where behavioural tracking drives advertising. So why shouldn’t our local magazine be tailored exactly to our tastes? We don’t need editors to spoon-feed us news – let’s have an editorial anarchy!
1) Usefulness / Value to user
So why would having your social network pages present in a magazine template be useful to you?
1) Ego. This is the Hello! or Tatler of our domestic lives. We love publicity, we love to be heard, and when you flick to your own picture and a personal quote, ‘going to Tescos’, appearing like the front page of a top Glamour feature, you can’t help but feel important.
2) Faster consumption of social content. We follow regular icons on Twitter. Whether it’s the daily antics of Stephen Fry or even Apple tweeting this app, tweets and links are priceless for breaking news and trending topics. But they can be tedious to find; rifling through your news stream. This model maintains the redeeming feature of the regular Newspaper apps: faster consumption of content. In this case: faster consumption of social news. The real-time web flies by at a bewildering pace with an even more bewildering amount of content and pictures. But when you can flick and flick across your twitter feeds and facebook pages, it is faster to consume this grapevine.
2) Usability/ Interface
So how do you use it?
Moving through the Flipboard content is like wading your hand through butter; it is so easy to scrape through. You go to the left hand side of the page and tap; it flips just like a magazine. The articles replicate magazine templates too, with headlines and pictures.
But the flexibility of the interface is better than any app I have seen. In classic, newspaper app style, clicking on a story opens the article. But you can pinch one tweeted article till it’s a small square and move it to the side to open another. So there is an alternative to just flicking: you can multi-task-read the content.
The magazine homepage is made up of photos from your social networking friends, a content page and sections you personalize. There are nine sections which can include topics, facebook and Twitter lists.
On each page lies Facebook status updates, photos and even articles. Only articles that your friends have shared though. The abundance of white space of these pages creates a tidy image without surrounding advertising. Although, note when you are reading an article that you need to tap through to the full article using an included in-app Web browser.
3) Price/ Business Mode
Hurrah! This app is free! But no one is losing out. Many apps make a free debut so they can reach high ranking and publicity. In the future Flipboard could introduce iAds for extra revenue too. In addition to your facebook and twitter contents, Flipboard offers their own categories like ‘flipboard news’ and music. If companies wanted to be featured as contributors in these categories, Flipboard could make some more money.
4) Additional Functionality
Flipboard goes further than just creating a magazine out of twitter. After the first version was released, Flipboard joined up with ‘Ellerdale’ whose intelligent data-parsing algorithms have previously been used to create a real-time search engine and trends tracker. Soon, Flipboard utilise this semantic data-analysis technology in its application which will make information and updates from your various social networking connections more relevant.
The app is currently struggling under a huge usage weight. Connecting it to twitter and facebook can take ages, if it connects at all. Hopefully these teething issues will subside, to leave a great, usable app. The main thing it misses right now, which I believe is in the works, is the ability to add an RSS feed directly into the news stream.
The Flipboard team are trying to sort the over-usage problem out as quickly as possible and you can see their response here