10 iPad Apps to Rock your News Experience

iPad, the next publishing frontier. Launched in April last year, the super-sleek device by Apple has changed the mobile computing landscape. Media organizations, in particular, see the iPad platform as a fertile ground for the emergence of next publishing model. It is changing the way people consume, engage and create media contents. Top-tier media organizations like The New York Times, The Economist, National Geographic, News Corporation and many more already established their presence in the iPad universe. However, these publishers’ apps are not particularly groundbreaking, at the moment.

News aggregation apps are the ones delivering cool innovative news consumption experience on the iPad. These apps are sleek on the outside, badass on the inside. This market space is red hot right now and expect to see more news apps releases in the coming months. Anyway, here are the ten top notch, fabulously free news app for the iPad available today:

Zite analyzes user’s reading habits to provide personalized news experiences. This ‘digital’ magazine crawls over 500,000 news sources on the web and display latest news (refresh every 30 minutes) to users in magazine-like format.

Anyone can start using the app without creating an account. You link Zite to your Twitter, Google Reader and Delicious. By analyzing these networks, Zite figures out your preferences and generates a list of recommended categories (or “sections”) for you. You can also create your own categories. WIthout linking to these accounts, Zite by default display to you some of the popular categories.

Personalized Top Stories and Sections on Zite

Zite continuously learn from your clicking habits – what types of news contents you click on (and which you didn’t click on), how long is the article, how long you spend reading the article. You can also manually tell Zite your preferred topics or ask it to grab more news from specific sources. Zite continuously personalize your news browsing experiences.

Page in Reading Mode
zite ipad single article

When the app was first released, it rendered full stories in its own reading-mode interface (see above), which altered the original layout of the pages and also, remove ads. This drew flaks from media companies. In response, Zite now serve more contents in web mode. In this mode, users can still easily share/save articles on Twitter, Facebook, Instapaper and Delicious. Users also can convert from web mode to a reading mode page.

I find Zite particularly useful for serendipitous discovery. The more I use it, the more I discover new news sources and interesting contents. Although its interface is not as visually captivating as its closest competitor Flipboard, Zite’s personalization engine is marvelously smart.

Created by Zite, Inc. (Vancouver, Canada). Launched March 08 2011. Tested version 1.1.1.

Two distinctive features of Taptu : Rubik’s Cube of news and create / curate your news mix. Each news stream comes with a Rubik’s Cube of news (with an option to hide it), which is a collage of articles to preview upcoming stories in the stream.

Another interesting feature is the ability create your own mix of news streams. Combine and curate two or more sources to create your own stream. It’s similar to the way one create folder on iPhone / iPad. A single personalized stream can be built around your interest, by aggregating news feeds related to that interest. Feeds can be from Taptu’s StreamStore, Bing RSS search and Google Reader. Users can then share the mixed streams to Twitter and Facebook. Users can also use the ready-made streams.

Taptu uses its proprietary mobile search technology and access thousands of news sources. Its built-in recommendation engine constantly monitor what you’re reading and your searches. From these signals, the app delivers related news and sources.

Two ways to manage your streams:

  1. Click on Edit on top left to access StreamsStudio. This is where you customize your streams to suit your preferences. You can delete, re-arrange the order of your streams, change color of the stream’s title bar, and also Add streams. Each stream can be a single source (e.g. The Wall Street Journal and Fast Company) or a categories (e.g. Design and Tech & Gadgets – a curated list). You can edit the Taptu curated topic lists – (i) Unmerge selected websites from the topic list to create separate streams and (ii) Delete a website from the list. To add your own sources, link Taptu to your Google Reader.
  2. Click Add button on top right to access StreamStore to quick add stream. Each stream can either be a single-source stream or multiple-sources steam (a category like Travel with a curated list of sources).

taptu streams

When I first used this app, I didn’t quite like it. News streams clutter the interface. To minimize the clutter-feel, I enlarge the window size of the streams to see fewer visible stories on each streams. This seems to make Taptu quite visually attractive.

Taptu is built to provide users with more control over their streams. Taptu CEO said, “Our customers have been telling us they are craving more control over the streams and we’re delivering that today.” But I have a hunch that many would state more control when asked. In reality, what most users want is just right balance of show-me-what-you-got and I-want-control when it comes to news app.

Created by Taptu Ltd. (Cambridge, England). Launched April 14 2011. Tested version 1.4.1.

Hitpad offers multi-dimensional news reading experience on rich visual dashboard. The app positioned itself as an “instrumentation by measuring, analyzing and determining what is important to consume in order to minimize reverb and improve discovery”. Over time, the app learns and fine-tune the delivery of most relevant bite-sized information snippets based on users’ interests.

News categories are Top Stories, Entertainment, Business, Sports, Technology, Canada News, U.K. News, U.S. News, World. Each category displays 10 latest trending topics. Each topic displays five different content types – news, tweets, videos, photos and search results.

When using Hitpad, I can’t rid off the nagging Am I missing something else? feeling. Nevertheless, the Trending Topics is quite useful to gain some brushstroke perspectives of what’s the latest and hottest in the interweb. As of now, Hitpad is 100% machine-curated and it may integrate with users’ social streams soon. Overall, Hitpad is a useful app if you are scan mode, rather than read mode.

Created by Instant Discover, Inc. (Tel Aviv, Israel). Launched April 05 2011. Tested version 1.3.

Pulse News Reader app re-imagined the presentation of RSS feeds on smart mobile devices. You can organize news streams into five customizable pages (lists). Choose news sources from curated lists or you can search for your own news source using simple keywords. On each page, you can add up to 12 sources. In total, you can have up to 60 news sources on your Pulse app. Link Pulse to your Facebook account to display all links shared by your friends. For each shared link, you can Like, comment and Post to Your Wall, directly on the app.

Pulse Catalog is a collection of news sources to enable news discovery. Listed publishers in Featured Sources are refreshed every Friday. Browse categories like News & Analysis, Technology, Entertainment, Business, Sports, and Fun, to find interesting news sources.

Pulse News is one of the best news aggregator today. It is (still) superb, aesthetically and functionally. It made popular the streams stack, grid-like layout design. Even Steve Jobs heaped praises on the app during his Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2010 keynote. The app was originally priced at $4.99 but turned free in November 2010. So, a must have for news junkie!

Created by Alphonso Labs (San Francisco, California, USA). Launched May 31 2010. Tested version 2.2.1.

FLUD looks stylish and calls itself a personalized news ecosystem. Like Pulse, this app adopts grid-like layout. Unlike Pulse, FLUD comes with pre-defined sections such as Technology, Creative, World/Politics, and Business. Tap on the heart icon below each article, the image flip over to reveal Share options (I find this flip-over appealing). It doesn’t have any limit on sources you can add (Pulse with 60 sources limit).

Each news article can be viewed in either text or web mode. In text mode, FLUD doesn’t format the article for pleasant reading experience. Another drawback is the absence of Refresh All button and you have to tap on the Refresh button for each stream.

Other than its visual attractiveness, FLUD is void of wow features. But I’m sure this will change in the coming months, considering the company’s fresh funding of $1 million. An app to watch.

Created by Made By Rabbits, Inc. (San Diego, USA). Launched August 05 2010. Tested version 1.1.4.

News360 is damn good at what it is built for, which is news aggregation. Using proprietary linguistic analysis engine, News360 scans over 1000 news sources and aggregates over 100,000 articles each day. The articles are categorize into clusters and extract relevant articles to display them to its users. Stories are slotted under the pre-defined categories like Top Stories, Latest News, World, Food, U.S., Arts & Culture, Business, and Sports.

Some of the cool features of News360 app:

  • Multi-sources news story: Each news story is accompanied by excerpt, web view of the story, a list of related stories from other sources, and photos compiled from various sources. This is useful, if you want to find out which other media outlets also cover the story.
  • Localization: This app is location-aware and able to aggregate local news using your GPS location. Travelers too can link TripIt to news360 to get local news of all upcoming destinations.
  • Personalization: Identify users’ reading behaviors to provide more personalized news contents over time.
  • 360 view: A visual displays of photos from current news. Click on images to see titles and read the story.

News360 may not be the prettiest in class but its news aggregation is probably best in class. This app never disappoint every time I use it. This workhorse is a must-have app on your iPad.

Created by News360 Ltd. (Moscow, Russia). Launched February 28, 2011. Tested version 1.3.

Feedly is a barebone magazine-like news app, with a minimalist approach to its interface. I first used Feedly as a Firefox add-on and it is an amazing alternative to Google Reader. Similar to the add-on, link your Google Reader to personalize Feedly app. Its algorithms will retrieve the most engaging contents from your subscribed sources and display them prominently in your home section. Feedly is built on HTML5 framework called Streets, “which allows us to run the very same app/code on both iOS and Android and adapt dynamically to different device form factors.” Even if you don’t link to Google Reader, you can use the app to browse Feedly’s curated list of sources.

One of the features I like is its reformatter. In single article mode, you can get app to reformat a web page to make it mobile-friendly. This makes the articles display beautifully on your iPad. However, Feedly doesn’t work in landscape mode and inability to share news articles on Facebook.

If you are looking for a good alternative to Google Reader, then Feedly app is worth a look. This app beautifies your RSS feeds.

Created by DevHD Inc. (Atherton, California, USA). Launched March 11 2011. Tested version 2.0.1.

What makes Blancspot unique is the stunning, quality images (from top photojournalists) accompanying each news story. Launch the app and it gets to work immediately. Tap on any news on the Dashboard, sit back and immerse in the stream of latest news in categories like Headlines, Sports, Technology, Business, and other topics. Blancspot combines software and human editors to aggregate news and commentaries.

This app aims to provide cinematic news experience. Specifically, engaging and attracting users with visual and auditory elements. In addition to beautiful photos, each news article is coupled with Twitter stream for easy access to latest, on-going discussion about a particular topic.

Blancspot didn’t quite impress me in its news coverage, depth and width. But this is an amazing app to convert your iPad into a tabletop display for news. The beautiful images coupled with background music is quite a marvelous experience.

Created by Blancspot Media LCC (San Francisco, California, USA). Launch date: March 9 2011. Tested version 1.4.4.

Instead of presenting news in text, the Newsy app provides daily news commentary, in video format. This Airplay-enabled app calls itself multi-source video news analysis. Newsy team identifies a news story, compiles news sources and provides value-added analysis of perspectives from multiple sources. Then, the different perspectives of a news story is presented in a 2-to-3 minutes, streaming video (with an anchor). By comparing perspectives from different sources, a viewer can form a more informed opinion.

Videos are categorized into World, US, Politics, Business, Entertainment, Technology, Sci/Health, and Sports. These videos can be accessible by anyone on Newsy website.

You can download short video clips for viewing them later on your iPad. You can also browse through videos and create a playlist of video clips to personalize your news bulletin. But Newsy should have a Play All button to automatically play every clip in each category.

Newsy has a different take on news consumption on the iPad, ushering the interesting era of mobile video journalism. Sometimes multimedia contents deliver news story better compared to text format.

Created by Media Convergence Group, Inc. (Columbia, Missouri, USA). Launch date: April 22 2010. Tested version 2.5.3.

Flipboard is quite a breathtaking app and a marvel on the iPad. This social magazine generated lots of buzz when it was launched in July last year. TIME magazine named Flipboard one of the 50 Best Inventions in 2010. According to its CEO Mike McCue, the app is seeing 11.4 million flips per day, with over 2 million app downloads (so far).

flipboard ipad front page

Flipboard deserves all the accolades it received for its innovative, intuitive interface. Its rendering engine is something to marvel at. The app aggregates news contents shared by your friends on Twitter / Facebook, photos from Instagram / Flickr, and integrate with Google Reader, – and transform the news contents into beautiful magazine-like format. The app can also extract-and-display contents from Facebook groups, fan pages, Wall, News feed, Friends’ posts.

flipboard ipad contents

Add any of these media sites – The New Yorker, The Guardian, The Telegraph, ABC News, All Things Digital, Bon Appetit, Lonely Planet, SB Nation, SF Chronicle/Gate, Uncrate or The Washington Post Magazine. For selected stories from these sites which are shared on Twitter or Facebook, Flipboard will format the news article into magazine-like reading experience. Flipboard is also experimenting with in-stories ads.

Flipboard obviously assumes the wisdom of the crowd and thus, personalizes your news experience by connecting to your social networks. Your social network should know best what you like to see. But Flipboard lacks personalization technology like Zite, in terms of understanding reading behaviors and personalize news The right mixture of Flipboard’s innovative interface and Zite’s personalization capability might just be the right success formula for an iPad news app. Nevertheless, Flipboard is definitely a must-have news iPad app.

Created by Flipboard, Inc. (San Francisco, California, USA). Launch date: July 21 2010. Tested version 1.2.1.

Which one is your favorite? Is your favorite missing from this list? Share your thoughts with us.

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