Flipboard and a handful of other iPad news reading apps have changed the way that we consume media, by allowing news junkies to read content in a tablet-friendly, magazine-like format. Google entered the space in 2011 with Google Currents, its own take on the mobile news reader. This free iPad app (it's also available on Android) lets users read online publications in a slick, easy to navigate layout.
Featuring partnerships with the likes of The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and many other publications, Google Currents has no shortage of interesting content. The biggest obstacles the app faces are overcoming some stability issues, and getting users to flock to it instead of the entrenched champion Flipboard.
Getting started is as simple as logging into Google Currents with your Google account credentials. If you don’t have an account, you can create one from within the app. After logging in with my Gmail username and password, I watched a brief navigation and usage tutorial which gave me a quick rundown of the app's various features.
I then arrived at the new Google Currents streamlined home screen which let me add subscriptions (now known as "Editions") from the Editions Sidebar (which replaces the "Library" and "Trending Stories" sections that drove the first Google Currents iteration). The new design puts Currents in visual alignment with other Google properties such as YouTube and Google+, and makes navigating the app simpler.
Diving into content
Bring a finger to an Editions category (like Science & Tech, for example) and the app reveals thematically related publications. There are several publications included by default, but you can easily remove unwanted ones by tapping the Edit icon. Tapping "Add Subscriptions" opens a section containing publications grouped by category. If, for example, you decide to add Space.com to your reading lists – a site listed within the Science & Tech cluster – it will automatically be added to the similarly named group in the Editions Sidebar.
Each Editions Sidebar grouping has an associated Breaking News subhead that lets you check out the hottest stories of the moment – through some may not be of great importance. On the day that I tested Google Currents, the Entertainment section's Breaking News was fronted by a story that detailed why Gwyneth Paltrow is the world’s most beautiful woman.
Navigation operates in a similar fashion to other iPad news reading apps by letting you swipe from page to page, although the animation can be a bit slow at times (the process of adding or deleting subscriptions can also be sluggish).
You can also share articles via email, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinboard, Instapaper, and Google+. Unlike Flipboard, Google Currents doesn't display updates from social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, but you can view the Google+ updates from Google Currents curators such as Tom Anderson (best known as the face of MySpace). You can also star stories to save them for future reference, and read cached stories offline.
Best of all, Google Currents syncs across all devices on which you have it installed, so you can move from phone to tablet and back again without missing a beat. That said, Google Currents doesn't sync with the soon-to-be-extinct Google Reader, so those who use both won't find articles marked read or unread across both services.
Like Flipboard, Google Currents gives users the opportunity to create their own digital magazines by adding an RSS feed, Flickr images, a logo, and more.
However, Google Currents has a major flaw that keeps me from abandoning Flipboard: It doesn't always display a feed's latest stories in chronological order. A site's most recent article may be placed behind a story that was published a few days before.
Google Currents is a strong entry in the iPad news reading space thanks to a slick redesign, native offline reading, and cross-device syncing. However, Flipboard gets the nod thanks to its simple design, deep social networking ties, and overall swiftness. Still, Google Currents is worth a try if Flipboard and the handful of other iOS news reading apps aren't to your fancy.