Smartphones have proved to be an excellent platform for browsing news content, with large, bright displays especially useful or showing pictures and text drawn from websites and blogs. Many apps have emerged that are dedicated to doing just this, with several variations centred around the basic theme of pulling articles through form a mixture of major news providers and niche publications.
The general theme of news readers is that a user can tailor the content that is delivered to them based on subjects they are interested in, making the use of these apps a unique experience for each person. Here, we take a look at five of the best available for a variety of platforms…
Taptu performs standard news reader functions such as allowing you to see content on a variety of subjects and pull articles through from specific sources, including updates from several major social networks.
What sets the app apart from many others is that it allows users to merge streams from different sources together, effectively creating your own subject areas. Taptu’s slogan, ‘DJ Your News’, may be a little clunky but the concept that it suggests carries through to the software itself, with the user creating mixes of content from several sources before sending them through to the main page.
Bizarrely, there is also a version of the app called Taptu Environment which centres its content on ecological news and is sponsored by The Guardian. Quite why this exists as an entirely separate entity is beyond us since the main feeds can easily be configured to do the same, but Taptu is still an impressive news reader with innovative functionality. Available for iOS, Android and BlackBerry OS.
Pulse is a pretty straightforward news reader app which earns its place in this list simply by offering an interface that is straightforward and easy to use. With streams lined-up in a vertical list from which articles can be browsed by swiping left and right, Pulse’s main page crams an impressive amount of content into a small space.
Clicking on an article brings it up in a full-page view, reminiscent of Flipboard’s interface, and is very smooth and cleanly designed too. While the app’s sections are tailored towards the US market (with ‘Football’ referring to the American kind), content can be drawn from some impressively obscure sources, including the excellent Daily Dose of Imagery photo blog. Pulse also offers the best Flipboard alternative for Windows Phone, plugging a gap in that under-served platform. Available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
News.me steers away from drawing content directly from news sources and instead takes a different route. By linking to your profiles on various social networks including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, the app pulls through articles that have been shared by your friends and presents them in a well-designed format displaying headlines, photos and sources.
While this may not seem particularly useful since Facebook, Twitter and others already perform exactly the same function, having spent some time with the app we found to be a very good way of concentrating all the content that would otherwise be spread across a variety of platforms.
News.me also presents a clean interface which separates articles from other social network updates, giving them an uncluttered appearance that can be digested at a more leisurely pace. While other news readers link to Facebook and Twitter, the fact that News.me does only this gives its content an unexpected feel, with the posting of articles being effectively taken out of the hands of the user and left to others. Available for iOS.
2. Google Currents
The real contender to Flipboard’s crown, Currents has the backing of the search giant and takes its place as an extension and update of the Google Reader RSS feeds software. Linking to a huge number of sources that can really be tailored to a user’s particular tastes, Currents provides a brilliant balance between general topics and content from specific publications.
The only downside that we could really find with Google’s news reader is that its interface can be a little difficult to navigate, with swiping gesture controls being mixed in with onscreen keys in a way that is a little confusing.
However, the way in which it displays content is very good, especially with image-heavy publications. Currents is a very close second to the winner of this list, providing an excellent platform that pulls a huge amount of content together. Available for iOS and Android.
The big name of news reader apps, Flipboard launched along with Apple’s first iPad and has since been redeveloped for all iOS devices and for Android handsets as well. With a design and interface that betters those of almost any other app, news readers or not, it is little surprise that several commentators have called Flipboard the best smartphone app ever made.
Aside from the brilliant design, users are presented with a range of pre-installed feeds which can then be added to, pulling content through from almost any source imaginable. A major newspaper can be placed right next to a particular Twitter feed, with recent articles being laid-out in on a minimalist grid before being pulled-up into a full screen view for reading.
Flipboard is also the best supported and most versatile news reader app available, with even audio-upload site Soundcloud even integrated into the iOS version of the software. Using Flipboard is so simple that it provides one of the best ways of accessing online content, even better than a mobile browser or some newspapers’ dedicated apps, and there is little, if anything, that feels like it is missing from the app. In fact, the only way we feel it could be bettered is if the much-rumoured desktop version were to emerge. Available for iOS and Android.