Developer: FLIPBOARD, INC.

Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad

iPad Integration Rating: ★★★★½
User Interface Rating: ★★★★½
Re-use Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Here’s the idea: make an app that pulls content from popular social networks and formats into a slick, ‘zine inspired interface. It’s a simple idea. But is it practical? Flipboard certainly thinks so, and they’ve invested quite a bit of design and promotion into it. The result is a social networking ‘zine that is good-looking and easy to browse, but still awaiting some more advanced features.

Flipboard works like this: connect the app to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Select up to seven other Twitter feeds or lists that you want to treat as “news,” then browse them via an interface that looks less like Twitteriffic and more like Newsweek. In other words, turn your Facebook friends into something cooler! The appeal is not the content, but the presentation. At a basic level, it is just another feed reader; the big selling point is the interface–the way you read your feeds.

And on that level, boy does Flipboard make my Facebook friends look good. Mimicking the look of slick modern ‘zine, Flipboard really turns mundane links and albums of Little League photos into very appealing things. The very posts that you might gloss over as you browse your friends status updates become front-and-center eye-catchers here, complete with headlines and graphics. It does all this through a responsive and intuitive touch control that lets you flip pages just like a book. Everything moves smoothly, and I did not detect any real glitches in the interface. It’s really well done and a treat to use.

Having said that, I also have to say this: right now, Flipboard feels more like a novelty than a killer app. It doesn’t mine the social networks popular links, doesn’t follow hashtags or trending topics, doesn’t allow you to make new status updates or create new tweets within the app. It’s great at what it does, but what is does is limited.

In the case of Flipboard, though, I am willing to temper my judgment of these limitations and put some faith in the future. This is not a small developer firing off their first app, but instead a major venture by a group with a lot of capital behind it. And the developers are promising that more dynamic feed sorting and other features are in the pipeline, as users begin to fuel and shape Flipboard content. If they realize the apps full potential, then it will be a beautiful thing.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one small but important issue here. Flipbook, for all its slickness, apparently wasn’t ready to handle the level of early interest it has generated. After dealing with Facebook lockouts in the first launch days, they’ve initiated an invite system, which means you may have to wait a couple days before you can make use of the apps primary selling point. And that sucks, just a bit, though it’s certainly one of those things that won’t be a lingering issue once the hype dies down.

So, is Flipboard a novelty social network reader, or a new paradigm in popular media? The jury is still out. If the developers follow through on the potential the app holds, it will certainly rise above the status of eye-candy and become a singular way to consume your daily dose of social media. I, for one, can’t wait.

Posted in: iPad Apps and Games, iPad News, Reviews

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