By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 9:46 pm
Apple recently named the “social magazine” Flipboard as the iPad app of the year. That seems about right–it’s got an ingenious and addictive interface that makes reading stuff from Facebook, Twitter, and sites of all sorts relaxing in a way that the Web rarely is. Perhaps more than any single iPad magazine app from a traditional magazine publisher, it feel like a magazine of the future rather than a dead-tree product repurposed into digital form. (I also had fun nominating it for TIME’s 50 Best Inventions of 2010 and then writing it up.)
Tonight, Flipboard is getting even neater–the company is releasing a meaty new version of the app. For me at least, the big news is support for Google Reader. For the first time, it’s possible to read RSS feeds within the slick, browsable Flipboard interface. (Until now, the closest you could get was to find a site’s Twitter feed and plug that in.)
The main Flipboard Google Reader section shows stories and images from all your Google Reader feeds, but you can also drill down into a particular feed and browse through pages filled with content from it; you can also add any feed as a Flipboard section of its own. If you–like me–are an RSS fan who doesn’t spend as much time reading RSS feeds as you once did, exploring them inside Flipboard might be enough to get you back into the habit. It feels less like work and more like serendipitous fun.
Flickr support is pretty much exactly what you’d expect: you can browse your own photos and those from your Flickr friends, explore any groups you belong to, or just peruse photos high in “interestingness” from all Flickr users.
Besides Google Reader and Flickr, there are some substantial interface upgrades throughout the app. In the original version, you had to click a “Read on the Web” button to see a story in its entirety; now Flipboard loads the full story automatically, and you just slide up on the preview to see it. New pop-up menus let you jump around from content source to content source without having to revisit the main Flipboard page. And you can post Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reader updates from within the app–or send one update to all three services.
Flipboard’s recently-introduced Pages feature–which shows content from official partners such as ABC News, All Things Digital, and Bon Appetit in particularly magazine-like layouts–has a slicker interface and now includes a Sports Illustrated section.
People sometimes accuse the iPad and iPad apps of failing to be much more than an oversized iPhone running oversized iPhone apps. I despair for anyone who tries Flipboard and still feels that way. But I hope that Flipboard comes to other venues as well–Android tablets, the Web, and maybe even smartphones (although figuring out a way to gracefully shrink it may be impossible). I chatted with company cofounder Evan Doll yesterday, and while he didn’t have any news about Flipboard’s future, he did say that the company likes the idea of bringing it to additional platforms.
A few screen shots of the new version: