In the past here at Zath, we’ve paid attention to a number of newspaper apps, such as The Daily, that are available for the iPad and commented on the usefulness of the iPad as a reading device, but rather than decide upon a particular newspaper or publication to provide us with news, many people choose another way. RSS is used to aggregate news from a variety of sources in one place, such as a standalone app, so here’s our rundown of the top 5 news reading applications for the iPad.
Pulp is an app that I’ve been using myself over the past few months, primarily because of the not unique, but convenient function of syncing with the same app for OS X. There’s no version for Windows, so if that’s your desktop platform of choice you’ll obviously be lacking that functionality, however, that’s not to say that you can’t enjoy the app as a standalone reader.
Pulp provides a simplistic, newspaper-style columnar interface to present news feeds from any of your chosen news sources via RSS. It has a collection of preset options, however you can add more via the usual URLs.
Pulp allows you to categorise your news under user-defined headings, and even allows you to save stories for later by adding them to the ‘read later’ tray, in a similar fashion to services such as Instapaper or Read it Later.
It’ll cost you £2.99 at the time of writing, but is well worth the money, particularly if you’re already using Pulp for OS X.
The immediate upside to Pulse when compared to Pulp, is that like many other RSS readers, it’s free. It won’t cost you a dime, which is great considering with the wealth of competition and variety in apps like this. You might want to try a few before settling on a favourite, and you’d be more inclined to do so if you don’t have to pay for the privilege.
The first thing that’ll strike you about Pulse once you’ve downloaded and opened it, is the user interface, which adopts a more modern approach to presentation than Pulp or the many newspaper apps. Arranging your news stories in a grid, sorted in rows by source, it’s certainly very easy to find your way around, and also aesthetically pleasing, which isn’t essential when simply delivering news content, but it’s welcome nonetheless in order to just topple any competition, perhaps.
You can read articles in Pulse in one of two ways. Either by the built in reader, that looks great and formats your articles accordingly, or you can simply tap and open the article in an embedded browser if you wish to do so for any reason.
Pulse will sync via your Google Reader account, common amongst many RSS readers as we’ll find out, and also allows you to save articles for later, which can also be synchronised when offline, or shared on your favourite social networks at the touch of a button.
The only negative perhaps is the limit on the number of news sources that Pulse can handle: 20, which is quite a meagre amount, though with a lack of the ability to categorise your news sources, it would become extremely busy on one page with any more than that.
Now, Flipboard is a little different to the other apps in this category, as rather than pulling content from direct RSS feeds from typical news sources, it instead gathers feeds from stories shared with you on your social network accounts, on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
In theory, if you and your friends, and the people you follow share common interests, this will provide you with an abundance of news that will directly interest you. However it’s rare that everything shared will be, so it’s likely that you’ll be faced with many stories still, that are of little interest to you.
Working in Flipboard‘s favour, of course, is the UI, which is very much like a magazine, allowing you to literally flip the pages over to reveal the next page, and top stories are presented bigger than the others to really catch your eye.
The social side of Flipboard is obviously the key selling point, the main differentiation, however it does also allow for the standard RSS feeds to be pulled and presented in the same gorgeous UI from typical news sources
Again, Flipboard is free, so there’s nothing holding you back from giving it a shot.
Reeder is the brains over beauty option in the list. It offers the clean, simple UI of a traditional desktop RSS reader, my only question is whether it offers enough substantial functionality over and above the others to warrant ditching a great interface for a basic one. I’m not saying it’s ugly, not by any means, it just adopts the simplistic approach to reading. Which arguably is the better way for many people.
It also relies solely on your Google Reader account for content, and allows you to manage your stories in folders, which is an especially useful function when saving articles for later, perhaps for projects if you’re collecting research on a particular topic. Definitely one great feature that the others don’t share.
Unfortunately Reeder isn’t free, setting you back the same £2.99 as Pulp, but well worth a go if you’ve got a Google Reader account that you use religiously.
The final entry into the list is FLUD – which is also available on Android – another free RSS option that provides a familiar mosaic interface, organising your stories into rows to form a grid.
Aesthetics aside, there are a couple of quite unique features in FLUD. Not to mention the full Twitter integration including your timeline, mentions and message all under one app, but also the ability to share stories not just with your friends on social networks and email. You can also share with other FLUD users via the bookmarking feature, which saves the article to Instapaper or Read it Later, as well as promoting it up the FLUD feed. If a story gets enough bookmarks by FLUD users, it’ll get to the top of the list for all to see. Certainly an interesting social aspect to the app, not shared in any others.
With the ability to connect to Google reader as well as pull other RSS feeds to the app, it’s probably the most versatile option here, and equally good looking too.
All of these are great reading apps, and each provide their own little twist on how the experience of receiving news digitally should be. My personal favourite would probably be Reeder, due to the ability to manage folders alone, however if you’re looking for something free to give you news, then of course you can easily take a look at all three of the free options for, well, free, but my recommendation would have to be FLUD due to an organised and beautiful layout, and some great social and bookmarking features.