Flipboard: Where RSS Feeds and Social Media Collide

Flipboard: Where RSS Feeds and Social Media Collide

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When someone asks an iPhone owner what his or her favorite app is, it’s always more or less the same answer: “I can’t pick just one app”. Choosing one app out of hundreds of thousands to be your favorite is not a simple task. You may be able to choose your top ten, or maybe even your top five, but one? That’s just impossible. No matter how many or how few apps you have installed on your phone, picking one just can’t be done. But picking your favorite app in a certain category, that can be done. Like choosing your favorite Twitter app, or your favorite app for getting things done. That narrows down the competition tremendously. Some people keep only their favorites of each category and nothing else, as to not waste time looking through screens of unused apps. Personally, I love having options. I usually keep an entire folder for each category, and will switch through the different apps depending on my mood.

Lately, I’ve noticed that when it comes to my news app’s folder, I keep going back to the same one app, and rarely use any other. This has never happened before. I’ve always had favorites, but never before has a favorite prevented me from using other apps of its kind. After thinking about it for a while, I finally came to the conclusion that it’s not just that this app is my favorite news app, but it also happens to be the perfect news app. Now this was not an easy decision to come to, but there was just no denying it. No other news app had the endless customizations, the incredible user interface, and enough social media integration to satisfy even me.

Now obviously, I’m talking about the legendary Flipboard, the app that no iOS device owner hasn’t heard of. Flipboard literally was the game changer that RSS feeds needed to remain cool. Who hasn’t spent countless hours ‘flipping’ through articles in Flipboard? I can’t even remember how I kept track of all my feeds before I started using it. You know the phrase “The best things in life are free”? It was first said about Flipboard. True story. Anyways, I figured that if I was going to declare an app perfect, I’d better be prepared to write about it in extensive amounts (which by the looks of things, I’m off to a great start), so let’s get going.

First off, the thing that Flipboard’s probably most famous for is its elegant, magazine like interface. You swipe through pages of tile shaped feeds, that update to show a little preview of its newest article. On iPad, you swipe side to side, and on iPhone, you swipe up and down. You can move tiles around by holding down and then dragging them around, similar to moving an app around on iOS. This interface is probably the number one factor Influencing my decision to proclaim Flipboard perfect. It manages to look incredible without compromising usability. It just works.

Next, you can’t talk about Flipboard and not make mention of its incredible social features. In fact, calling it a news app barely does it justice, it should really be called a social news app. Or a social reader. Or something with the word ‘social’ in it. Anyways, unlike other RSS readers, Flipboard allows you to connect your social networks, and flip through them alongside your RSS feeds. You can add your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, SoundCloud, Tumblr, Flickr, Instagram, 500px, Sina Weibo, Renren, and of course, your Google Reader account. You can also add your Instapaper and Pocket accounts to save articles for later.

Flipboard is also great for sharing. If you find an article that you like, you can share it to your social networks (obviously not to the photo based ones like Instagram, but to Facebook, Twitter, etc). There’s also a ‘new status’ button for regular status updates whenever you’re outside of an article. These features alone have made Flipboard my most used app, and a big percentage of my daily social sharing comes from here.

In other RSS apps, everything you do takes place inside of your Google Reader account. Whether you want to read, add, or remove feeds, it can only be done after you’ve connected your Google account. Flipboard does things a little differently. Instead of adding new feeds to your Google account, you add new feeds to Flipboard itself. In fact, you don’t even need to add your Google Reader account to add new feeds at all. So if you don’t rely on Google Reader for news, you’ll be pleased to know that in Flipboard, it doesn’t matter whatsoever.

The thing that really sets Flipboard apart from other RSS readers, is its ability to add just about anything as a feed. What do I mean? While you can add content the traditional way – via news feed, you can also add other people’s social accounts to your stream, which makes keeping track of your favorite Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram users extremely easy. For example, say you wanted to keep track of my Twitter account (I’m @gschnei). You’d type my name into the Flipboard search bar, and click on the little plus sign next to my Twitter account, which would then add me to your Flipboard. Now you can easily view all my latest tweets as if they were an RSS feed. This can be done with any user on any of the social networks that Flipboard integrates with. Yet another reason why Flipboard shouldn’t be filed under the RSS reader/News app section, RSS feeds are really just a fraction of what Flipboard has to offer.

Another great feature, one that was first introduced in Flipboard for iPhone, and later brought to the iPad version, is Cover Stories. Cover Stories aggregates news articles and social posts from all of your other feeds, based on what it thinks you’ll like. The more you use it, the smarter it gets. I use Cover Stories every day, and it never fails to deliver something interesting that I haven’t previously read.

I’ve tested out many news apps in my day, but none have stuck the way Flipboard has. Needless to say, it’s now on my iPhone home screen, and probably for the long run. Flipboard has completely changed the way I consume news – awesome content is always at my fingertips, and sharing my favorites couldn’t be simpler. It’s the perfect blend of news, social, and sharing. Mike McCue, I owe you one.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Great review Gavi. It made me think about the apps that I have had since purchasing my very first iPhone and that have stuck with me all the way until my current iPhone 4S. WhatsApp and Shazam have been on my iPhone since the start and I still actively use them today.
    What has everyone else stuck with and never deleted?

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