Google Currents received a much waited update last month. First thing first, Google Currents gathers all the news from your favourite web source around the web and present it to you in form of a pleasant-looking digital-magazine. It is not a mobile RSS reader that you might expect it to be, although it could sync with Google Reader. I would actually describe it as more of an e-magazine. Similarly, Flipboard brings together news in a beautiful magazine that you can easily flipped through the pages of news you care about alongside a social context.
Both apps are very similar and largely serve the same market. I don’t see a need for having two apps on the phone and well, I did a quick comparison between the two Android versions. There have been some talk recently about how Flipboard now comes with DayDream Mode but wait a minute, Google Currents has been on Daydream since the Android 4.2 launch. To turn on and adjust Daydream settings select Settings > Display > Daydream. Overall though, Daydream on Flipboard does look much better, with the full covers turning into a screensaver with zooming and panning functions. Compared to Google Currents, it does seem more immersive. Well, what about the other features, then?
Flipboard prides itself on a brilliant interface featuring a swipe down motion to get from one article to the next. It does so with smooth and responsive animations. Flipboard also allows me to import my own feeds and see friend interactions. Flipboard takes a more social approach by integrating quite a fair bit with your social network, like Facebook and Twitter, and as such news content takes a back seat in this app, and a really far back seat at that. It presents data in a very attractive way but you can only see one news segment per page. While it’s okay just to see pictures or 140 characters if it’s your friends, news content don’t do so well with truncated summaries. As such you’re more than likely faced with a blank slate and a tantalizing headline that you won’t have access to until you’re within data or wireless range. No offline support is a big bummer for me.
The new Google Currents build on the existing platform to look better on whatever type of device you’re using, a form of adaptive design. Also, Currents now group article type by categories, similar to Flipboard. For instance all news related editions will be part of that group, Science and Tech editions will grouped as one. The new format includes a sidebar that will show you all the editions you have subscribed to. The categories are below and if you click on a category, a drop down menu will show you more editions. Google has also added a Breaking Stories tab to Currents and you click on it customise it to your country, so you can get the top stories from say, Singapore. Google Currents will now use some of the technology behind Search to ensure that the biggest breaking stories in categories such as World, Entertainment, Sports, Science and more are available to you – though the breaking news category didn’t work very well for me when trying to browse offline. Otherwise, the offline mode works very well, with Google Currents automatically sync-ing every few hours when there is WiFi. Beyond the fact that I felt the overall news presentation to be more functional than Flipboard, the Offline Sync (both full news and images) sealed the deal for me. I could pick up my WiFi Nexus 7 at anywhere and anytime and still be able to read (almost) latest news on it.
To sum it up, the internet has revolutionised the way we receive news updates, and thanks to mobile phones, we can stay up-to-date with the latest stories as they break. With the bombardment of news from multiple sources, RSS are no longer the optimum way of getting up to date and these apps really help bring the pleasure of magazine formatting to a tablet. While Flipboard is overall more polished in terms of the User Experience and Design, I felt that Google Currents advantage in being functional and to provide an offline-only mode were important to ignore.