Battle of the Reading Apps: Google Currents vs. the Rest

  • Share
  • Read Later
Techland Illustration

Google Currents, a news reading app from the behemoth of search, has joined the likes of Flipboard, Pulse, Zite and Livestand in the battle to be the champion of text delivery. Unexciting as that sounds, these apps are actually pretty stylish, with slick interfaces and cool ways of delivering stuff to read. And they’re different enough that you might want to pick one and stick with it as your go-to news reader.

Here’s a quick look at the hottest reading apps for iPhones, iPads and Android devices, and how they stack up:

(LIST: 50 Best iPhone Apps of 2011)

Google Currents

The Gist: Google’s reading app emphasizes professional news sources, such as Forbes, The Guardian and Saveur Magazine. Mainly, you’ll be reading a single publication at a time, but there is a list of featured stories from multiple sources on the home screen, and you can also look through categories of general news topics. It’s available on iPhone, iPad, Android phones and Android tablets.

The Good: Simple list of reputable news sources means you know you’re getting good stuff.

The Bad: No social media feeds or other custom news sources outside of Google Reader and a few of Google’s hand-picked “curators.” Navigation’s a bit choppy in the first version.


The Gist: Flipboard is a virtual meta-magazine, allowing you to flip through pages of content from newspapers, blogs, curators and social media feeds. It’s available for iPhone and iPad.

The Good: Plenty of sources to choose from and endless customization through Twitter lists and other social media sources. The magazine-style page flip animations are just plain cool.

The Bad: Finding sources that you like among Flipboard’s many curated news feeds can be a chore.

(MORE: Instagram Says It’s Working On Android App)

article continues on next page…


The Gist: Pulse presents rows of headlines and thumbnail images in a way that’s easy to scan. Major news outlets and blogs are the main fodder, but you can also add feeds from social networks and Google Reader. It’s available for iPhone, iPad, Android phones and Android tablets.

The Good: Dispenses with fancy visual gimmickry and gets straight to the information. Its Android home screen widgets help draw you into the app.

The Bad: Not much in the way of curation and discovery. Once you’ve picked your sources, that’s it.

Livestand by Yahoo

The Gist: Like Google Currents, Yahoo’s Livestand is focused on professional news sources instead of individual curators or social media feeds. Users choose from a list of featured sources or pick their favorites to arrange on a virtual bookshelf. They can also create their own composite source from multiple publications. It’s available for iPad only.

The Good: Highly stylized presentation makes even lowly blogs look like magazine features.

The Bad: Can’t customize without signing in to Yahoo or Facebook. Load times during navigation ruin the flow. Navigation icons aren’t intuitive, so the app relies heavily on nettlesome tutorials instead. Articles sometimes get truncated with no way to view them in full on the web.


The Gist: Zite calls itself a “Personalized Magazine,” but it’s more like a newspaper, with articles divvied up by category and laid out with several headlines per page. The main hook is customization, letting you give a thumbs up or thumbs down to each article, or ask for more of any topic, publication or author. It’s available for iPad only.

The Good: Setup and article intake are both really easy. When preset categories fail, you can create your own (with, say, your favorite sports team or local news).

The Bad: “Top Stories” don’t always seem like top stories. It’d be nice if the algorithms could tell what’s really important without user input.

MORE: Too Many Flipboards: Google Reportedly Prepping ‘Propeller’ News App

  1. Previous
  2. 1
  3. 2