New York Times
News flash: The news industry is changing faster than ever. Smartphone and tablet apps have given news-hungry consumers a new way to discover what is going on nearby and around the world. With apps always connected to the Internet, you also can argue that news breaks faster than it ever has.
The two best news apps are Flipboard (free on iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone) and Circa News (free on iOS and Android). Both are heads above all the competition.
Each one pulls into one place news and commentary from diverse sources – from Twitter to newspaper websites – but they work in slightly different ways. Flipboard uses algorithms to compile its offerings. Circa uses an old-fashioned approach to choose its content – a team of editors. Either will give you a great selection of information.
In addition to compiling articles, Circa’s editors digest news items, making them more convenient to read on the go. You can customize the categories that Circa presents to you, choosing to omit sports or politics from your feed, for example.
Best of all, if you find something interesting, you can click on the “follow story” button and the app will keep you updated on the news as it develops. Your followed stories are presented in a section called Wire, where you see only updates, on the theory that you don’t need to reread what you already have seen.
Circa has an attractive, clean look and is pleasant to use. The reading interface responds to gestures swiftly and has subtle animations that turn dry text into something that feels a little more dynamic. One downside is that you have to tap on the screen more than in other apps to read the items.
With its great-looking, gesture-based interface, Flipboard is so good it’s turned me from a news avoider into a voracious news consumer. It is constantly being updated; its most recent version, which adds some human selection to its approach, just came out.
Perhaps the only downside when you browse Flipboard for a while is that you tend to see the same news item pop up. This can become annoying, but at least it offers you the chance to read about what is going on from a different publication’s perspective.
The BBC is one of the most venerable news organizations. Its BBC News app is good, and it is free on iOS and Android.
The app presents news items in a grid of small photos, each with the relevant headline shown below. Tapping on a photo takes you to the full article. Each row of the grid is a different category, from top stories through science, business and so on. You can swipe sideways on a row to see more stories or organize the row order to suit your taste.
A “latest” news ticker section at the top shows important breaking news at a glance, and there is an option to listen to live radio from the BBC World Service.
The whole app is slick and pleasant, and the news items themselves are presented with the BBC’s trademark high quality. The app’s international flavor also means it’s not overly U.S.-centric, which is a flaw some news apps seem to have.
For an app that does have a decidedly Ameri-centric design, check out Niiiws US. This news app is unusual in that it collates news content from “the most important national U.S. newspapers” only, which gives it a much more traditional and perhaps local feeling.
The app has a modern minimalist look, and you can choose to read news items of interest in one of two ways – as superclean text articles or as they appear online.
Niiiws is free for iOS devices, and it’s great – although sometimes its interface feels a little jittery.
Yahoo’s News Digest is popular. It’s a news app with a difference: Instead of constantly showing the news, it presents a twice-daily digest of the top stories along with useful contextual information.