Google's Flipboard Killer "Currents" Won't Kill Anything but Will Definitely Compete

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By: Hillel Fuld

Let’s be honest here, people have been talking about Google’s attempt at Flipboard for months now and it never stood a chance. Mike McCue of Flipboard set the bar so high with the design of his app that no matter how perfect Google’s reader would have been, people would have brushed it off with a “Phhh”.

So when Google announced the new Google Currents for iPhone, iPad, and Android (Ahem, Flipboard), I promised myself I would review it with an objective eye and not compare it to Flipboard.

As soon as I started using it, objectivity was not a problem because I loved it from the first second. Wait, let me rephrase that. I tried it on iPhone and was impressed, but when I then viewed it on my iPad, that is when I fell in love.

Is it as beautifully crafted as Flipboard with the magazine-like transitions and all the bells and whistles? Most definitely not. Is it a practical, beautiful, and intuitive reading application that I will surely use on a daily basis? Affirmative!

To be clear, the very comparison to Flipboard is somewhat unfair, as Mike McCue pointed out to me on Twitter here. The truth is Currents is a news reader while Flipboard also offers you the ability to read your news but is first and foremost, a social reader. Now, I gotta be honest, I am pretty surprised and somewhat disappointed that Currents did not take on Flipboard and include my social feeds! Mike has an explanation for that too, see his tweet to me here.

As I replied, I hear what he is saying with Google’s reluctance to add Facebook and Twitter feeds into a Google app, but um, what about Google+? Why can’t I add my Google+ feed into my Currents?

Putting that aside, the app itself is nice, really nice. The ability to easily add currents from Google Reader, featured sites, curators, and even custom URLs is impressive. Although, I have to say, the slow syncing process of a new feed is painful and will be a deal breaker in the long run.

In addition, when adding a custom URL like for example, this blog, the app could not pick up a picture to represent the box in Currents, it remained white no matter how many times I pressed Sync.

The basic concept of Google Currents is that you have two sections, Library, which is a collection of the feeds you chose, and Trending, which is an aggregator of all the hot news as it occurs.

The problem on iPhone is that the app does not take advantage of the small amount of screen real estate the way it should or the way Flipboard and Pulse do. Titles are cut off and the section showing your different currents takes up most of the screen. Of course, all that changes when you select one site to read and then it is clear and easy to read. I might even say easier on the eyes than reading an entire article in Flipboard.

On iPad, Google Currents absolutely rocks! All the problems I had with the iPhone app disappeared when using Google Currents on the iPad. In portrait mode, it is nice. But in landscape, it is wow.

Of course, it is also available on Android and based on initial reviews, Google did a great job with the Android version as well (well, yea, that would make sense, wouldn’t it?)

Anyway, here is the bottom line. Google Currents is one of Google’s better designed products and will definitely stick with users given its superior UI, awesome Google Reader integration, and smooth reading capabilities.

Does Google have work to do on this app if it wants to play in the major leagues with Pulse, Flipboard, and others? Oh, absolutely, but meanwhile, it earns a premium piece of real estate on my iPhone’s home screen alongside my favorite apps of all time. See below.


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