Newspapers and magazines aren’t dying; they’re just changing venues. As news shifts online and goes mobile, we still love those gorgeous magazine spreads. Fortunately, there are a plethora of free iPhone and iPad apps, all of which give you primary control over what you have to read at any given point. You like news about Apple, videogames, and politics? With a few clicks you can add those items to your readers. But what about if you want even more control? What if you want big events from your friends’ Facebook and Twitter accounts right alongside the “actual” news? Well, then, you’re going to love these beautiful and functional apps
This app came out last year, and already it feels like an institution. Originally focused more on your Facebook and Twitter feeds, Flipboard has added much more content. It’s now essentially a personalized magazine of news and articles you like, mixed with your feeds from Facebook and Twitter, plus Linkedln, Google Reader, Instagram, and Flickr.
Inside Flipboard’s gorgeous cover is a nine-space grid with your Facebook and Twitter accounts taking up spaces one and two. The seven remaining spaces are preselected categories (you can delete ‘em by tapping and holding), and the last square is free for your own choices. Beyond that, there’s a second page with 12 more squares to fill with partner news sources, such as Rolling Stone. Once added, tap the Rolling Stone square, and the screen fills with well laid-out articles, like the best magazine you ever read. Slide your finger to turn the page or quick-scroll through by dragging the scrubber at the bottom.
If you’re not into the built-in sources, type the URL or name of your favorite site, and Flipboard pulls in everything from its RSS feed to related Twitter and Facebook accounts. And you can add Flickr and Instagram users too. All in all, Flipboard is a dream app: solid, engaging, easy to use, and beautiful.
Editions By Aol
AOL’s news magazine app debuted in August, and so far we like it a lot. Fire it up, and you get classic wood-paneled background as the app digs within its sources—a recent update vastly sped up the load time for this. Like Flipboard, Editions tailors content to your tastes, only AOL aims to go further by curating the sources in each topic. You can tweak them, but you’re merely accessing the same list and highlighting sources you prefer (like, ahem, MaciLife).
Interestingly, Editions isn’t built around the 24/7 news cycle. You select when you want it “delivered,” and that’s the cut-off—stories posted after that time won’t appear in that day’s Editions. This is a deliberate move by AOL to create something with a beginning and an end, a retro concept that fits the magazine’s design, which includes throwback fonts and Ben-Day dotted images on its cover.
You can also add your zip code for local news and weather and your birthday to get your horoscope. Log in with Facebook, and Editions reminds you of upcoming events. Navigation is similar to Flipboard, and it involves swiping to turn pages and tapping articles to load them. A small arrow at the bottom of the screen unleashes the magazine control panel, including a scrolling list of all the articles in that issue. Editions learns your interests from the stories you read, and each story also has tags that you can s/ or X to see more or less about those subjects.
Pulse News has been around for a while (and it won the Apple Design Awards in 2011), but since then it has made dozens of improvements to its layout, its feature list, and its overall aesthetic. Pulse News differentiates itself in how you can access your content—it ditches the traditional magazine stylings of Editions and Flipbook to instead utilize a column-view that is both extremely new and extremely accessible to first-time iPad users. As soon as you open the app, you understand that tapping any of the thumbnails it presents you will open the article. If you want even more content, you can swipe any column to see more thumbnails.
Pulse News carefully curates content into groups, like “technology,” “music,” and “fun.” Any one of their groups could easily supply you with a day’s worth of reading, but if you’re not satisfied with what they pick for you, you can just add your favorite RSS’s to their choices.
Pulse News also comes with enough features to help you discover its possibilities long after you started using it. Whether you’re looking for an RSS reader with offline capabilities, or just an extremely easy way to read your content, the Pulse News reader belongs on all of your iOS devices.