|Review: Flipboard for iPad|
Wednesday, 01 December 2010 10:56
One of the big killer apps that came out shortly after the iPad was released is Flipboard.
Explaining what the app does sounds weird, especially to those who are used to the Twitter and Facebook apps or Web sites. But Flipboard isn't the normal sort of 'use this service' application. Instead, it presents information in a very pleasing layout, with some clever tricks to make consuming articles much easier than usual.
As with many things Apple does, design plays an important role. In this case, Flipboard presents information from Twitter and Facebook in a magazine-type layout. Again, it might sound silly when you read about it, but going hands-on with the app changes everything.
One-liner Facebook or Twitter updates are featured in sidebars, but it's the updates with links and pictures that bring Flipboard to life.
One of the accounts I follow on Twitter is the US Embassy in Pretoria. Whoever is running the feed posts a lot of news links, and when I'm on my computer I don't always have time to click each one to see what it's about. Flipboard does the hard work for me. It fetches the content of each link and renders it as a full- or half-page layout, complete with the intro text and associated photo.
I can tap on the article and start reading the intro text. Since not all of the text is rendered, there's a 'read on Web' button – which takes me to the original page. The best bit about this is that Flipboard has already fetched the contents of that entire page in the background: in the few seconds it takes me to read the intro text, the page is preloading.
Most links are treated this way, and it's a fantastic way to get stuck into the articles that are posted, without the hassle of picking and choosing which ones to load manually.
Photos and videos are also displayed inline, in Flipboard. Where applicable, links to YouTube videos are rendered as HTML5 video containers. Simply tapping on an inline YouTube video will load it up and start it playing; all on the same page as the current content. Photos are treated similarly, showing up in a larger container when tapped on.
Since the content displayed is from social networks, it's also possible to interact with it. Checking out stuff on Facebook means you can still 'Like' it or comment on it, and when you view articles that have been posted on Twitter it's possible to see who else has shared that tweet or to comment on that post.
Perhaps the biggest shortfall is Flipboard's inability to render content from RSS feeds. The content can, at the moment, only be added from predefined Twitter feeds and your personal Facebook account. It's not possible to go and add a specific user's Twitter feed as a 'chapter' in Flipboard, either.
While the basis of its content is in social media, it should still be possible to add RSS feeds from popular sites and end up sharing those links with your followers or friends. Whether the developers will add this is another question altogether, but it's nice that this is an option in the dynamic Web world we live in.
So if you're stuck with an overload of information on your various social platforms, give Flipboard a try. It's gorgeous to look at, great to interact with, and almost completely bug-free. I have no doubt it'll change a few of your reading habits.
Good: Gorgeous design; fluid interface; preloading of articles
Bad: No RSS support; limited selection of Twitter feeds
Tested on: iPad
Genre: Social Media
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