In my quest for the ultimate news app for my iPad I tried a few promising apps for quite a while now. One of the best (in my opinion) is Flipboard. It’s an almost perfect instance of a new kind of news apps, social news. Flipboard aggregates news from your Twitter & Facebook timelines plus allows Google Reader, Flickr, Instagram news. You can search for any person, Twitter account, Twitter list, blog name and choose from a huge list of categorized news sources as well.
Yeah, Flipboard is really cool. I should write an article of its own about it. But it’s been there a while now and therefore isn’t very new anymore.
This article, however, is not about Flipboard. I stumbled upon Zite (US iTunes Store link, German iTunes Store link) a few days ago and it’s really nice, too. In some way it’s a bit like Flipboard. Here are my impressions.
What’s in it?
When you launch Zite for the first time, it asks for your Google Reader and your Twitter account.
So those are the two main sources for the news Zite will present. But that’s not all. Read on. 😉
After that you’re presented with a nice list of topics you might be interested in. Just tap on those you like to read news about.
Now hold your breath for the last of these pages: there you can enter your own keywords or topics:
The screenshot show some topics I entered. They’re already selected after you enter them. Tap on the Done button and enjoy your new individual news magazin. Here are some impressions:
A very nice and unique feature is that you can tell Zite whether you liked a story you read or not. That’s not „Like it“ on Facebook! Instead it tells Zite more about your news habits and preferences. If you like an article you’ll get more of that kind in the future. Even more: Zite scans the article for keywords and presents them to you to tap on them. That way you can tell Zite that you want more on that subject in the future. I like that a lot.
You’re always able to return to the Home screen („Top Stories“) from any section you might be in by tapping the Home button in the upper left corner of the screen. And you can go from any section to any other section directly because you can access the sections list anytime from any articles overview page.
So how often and when does Zite a refresh to always present the latest news? As far as I’ve learned: every now and then. There’s no explicit refresh button anywhere. Instead, Zite refreshes the news at startup and it looks like it checks for news every time you go back to the Home page or any section page. You can see a very very tiny text box with rapidly increasing numbers in the very lower left corner of the screen right under (not below!) the „Feedback“ button. That’s a bit awkward but it’s soon gone and the news are fresh.
Best of all: Zite is free (as of this writing)!
There are, however, a few downsides as well:
- Although Zite uses your Google Reader account to add your favorite RSS feeds it’s a one way communication: you can’t edit your set of RSS feeds from within Zite. So it’s not one of many Google Reader clients. Maybe that’s not really a drawback because there are enough out there. 😉 But, on the other hand, you have to leave Zite if you want to add a new source of information (ie: RSS feed) to Zite. 🙁
- Zite has a built-in web view which is used when you tap the „web“ button at the top of an article. You get a fullscreen view of the article’s original web page. But if you tap on a link inside an article (in Zite’s specially built view, not in the web view) Zite asks „Open link in Safari?“. Why? I dunno. Why not open those in-article-links with the built-in web view, too? Why stepping out of Zite? The best solution would be: provide the user with a popup menu and let him choose: open in Safari, open in built-in web view, copy link to clipboard, send link via eMail, …
- Twitter, Facebook & eMail sharing of an article is great and personally sufficient for me. But other’s might be fans of other sharing possibilities (like Digg, Tumblr etc.). Those aren’t there, yet.
- Being able to do something with images inside of articles (save to the iPad’s photo library, eMail them, share on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr etc.) would be nice.
- There are some minor cosmetic flaws (eg, why does the Email button change it’s color after you emailed an article’s link for the 1st time?)
Some of those issues will surely be addressed in an update.
But despite those cons I really, really like Zite a lot! It’s my 2nd most favorite news app on the iPad and comes right after Flipboard (which, btw, can’t edit your Google Reader feed subscriptions neither). And don’t forget: Zite is a free app. So don’t hesitate and try it for yourself!