Flipboard Review: A Slight Disappointment

FLIPBOARD LOGO

Flipboard’s pitch for their app is, “This is your personal magazine, a single place to enjoy all the news you care about.”

It aggregates pretty much everything you could ever want, providing a mix between social media and news. You can link your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and YouTube feeds, which wasn’t an option I was expecting from what I had heard about the app. It also provides feeds that the app has compiled for different disciplines such as news, photography, film, food, travel, politics, music and so on.

Whichever ones you choose become tiles on your home screen which can be clicked on and literally “flipped” through. Honestly, one of the things that annoys me the most about this app is the actual flip motion you have to use to sift through information. I’m used to scrolling through feeds. The app requires a quick up or down swipes to go from post to post. It’s hard to explain and hard to get the hang of, but I’d love to see people try it out and hear what they think of the navigation technique.

The time the app saves you by compiling many sources into one place is quickly wasted away by the time it takes you to go through content.

Maybe it’s just my inner speed reader, but I like to have a lot of information in front of me and look for what catches my eye. Flipboard makes you go through each individual piece of information one by one (or depending on the section you’re in, it’s in groups of two or three.)

Especially for Twitter, I found it really impractical. Who goes through and reads every individual tweet? Maybe the creators got excited by the flip idea, but I would like this app a lot better if you could just scroll through your feeds and see more content at once like you do in their respective apps.

So unless you have a really limited and clean social media feeds – i.e. you’re only following people you want to read every single update from – the social aspect of this app is not really effective. It makes you read everything a bit too closely.

One of the other tricky things is you can’t really post your own updates from the app. Posting is only allowed in a limited capacity to Twitter and Facebook. So if I’m going to have to open the Instagram app to post a photo, I might as well just scroll through my newsfeed too. Flipboard doesn’t do a good job of getting you to use their app and only their app. There are holes and limitations that drag you away.

I do like how you can add tiles for specific areas of interest, but they’re soft news categories such as food, travel and technology. So in terms of a hard-hitting, breaking news app – it doesn’t do much for me. I also think it’s trying to do too much within one app.

There’s also a “cover stories” section, which compiles the most important things (as judged by the app) into once tile, for fast browsing. But when you have many different social media profiles and news tiles, it can end up with an odd arrangement of information. The juxtaposition of an Instagram post that got a lot of likes next to a news articles is a bit odd. It also has trouble picking the most important social media posts.

A nice feature it has is a “read later” list. You tap the plus sign next to an article and you can name your list (called a magazine), give it a description, choose a category and decide if other people can view it. But it’s not the only platform that offers something like this. Just wait until I write a review about Pocket, one of my favorite apps ever, which has the same idea but it’s more for personal use as opposed to public. So while it’s a cool idea, I’d rather just use Pocket, especially since I don’t think many people are going to care about a list of articles I compile.

Their assessment of calling it a magazine is pretty accurate. This kinda feels like the app I would pick up at the dentist’s office and flip through while I’m waiting. It doesn’t feel like an app I can rely on to keep me updated.

With a lot of customization and research, I think it could be useful for some people. You can follow certain topics and posting streams. But I think it would take a lot of work to get the exact mix of what you’d want to see. It makes more sense to do the work on your own. This doesn’t really take much effort out of the information collecting experience.

The app has only been around since 2010, so I could see it growing a lot over the next couple years and becoming something more practical. The idea is really good in concept, but in practice, it’s not really something that thrilled me on first use. I’d call this a work in progress, something about it is just quite not ready yet.

Mobile site: Not one that functions the same as the app, but they do have a website that gives more details. A good place to look if you’re interested in seeing what kind of magazine content they have – there’s an index by subject.

Sidenote: on the website it shows the app being used on an iPad, I could definitely see this being a more practical way to appreciate the app. It could totally use more screen space. On my iPhone it feels very constrained and cramped.

Free: Yep!

Availability: App Store, Google play store, Windows Store and BlackBerry World (I didn’t even know until now that BB’s app store had a name)

Original content: In terms of news, they don’t write their own stuff. They pull from sources like The New York Times, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Associated Press, NBC News, etc. In flipping through the news section, one rarely sees the same source more than 2 to 3 times. Nice if you want varied news.

But other people are allowed to create “magazines” and publish them. From what I can gather, it can be collections of articles or original content. I could definitely see this being expanded into the focus of the app in the future since I don’t find the aggregation of outside sources very enticing.

Push notifications: Yes, and they’re very customizable which is a plus. There’s nothing worse than an app that overkills on notifications you don’t care about. You can choose to independently turn on and off notifications for likes, comments, mentions, subscriptions, etc. So even though you can connect many social media profiles, you don’t get mobbed with notifications.

Simplicity: It’s pretty easy to pick up the basics, but it’s an app that can be used as complexly as the user chooses to. But it’s definitely  user intuitive and is organized nicely in terms of aesthetics. It was a little tricky to find out where to go to post a tweet or Facebook update.

Recommend to: Those who are lazy. Personally, I don’t mind going to all my different apps to get my news. This is a slow-paced app that puts everything in one place. But it doesn’t really do much more than put everything in one place.

Score out of 10: I think I can only give this a 5/10. I was hoping I’d be able to do a more positive review for my first one, and I had high expectations for this. I can’t really see myself adopting this app into my news gathering habits. It’s cool to check out, but it doesn’t offer me anything unique that makes me want to come back to it.

Verdict: Deleted

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