Currents: Google’s Version of an iPhone Reader

When it comes to reading on the iPhone, there are no shortage of apps out there that let you catch up on the latest blogs, books, magazine, newspapers, etc. But there are very few that are able to present you with your content on a small screen like the iPhone in a great and visual way.

Recently, Google threw itself into the ring with its own version of a reading app, named Google Currents. Unfortunately, they had a bit of poor planning on the launch as they came out a day or so after Flipboard released its amazing iPhone app. Can Google enter this crowded space and be a dominant force on the iPhone or is this just another reader that will slowly fade away? Let’s check it out more and you can see for yourself.

Set Up

When you first set up Currents, you log in with your Google credentials. On the homepage there are already a handful of websites displayed for you to read and there are a few basic ways that you can add content.

To start, Google has crafted its own library of sites that are separated into topics that you can choose from to add. If none of them suit you, you can always import your Google Reader feeds and choose to add those to your collection. Lastly, if there are other sites that you want to read, you can always add them manually by searching for them.

Different ways to find content

Different ways to find content

There is one other way to build your library by utilizing the Trending tab. You can add the top five stories that are trending from a variety of topics including Top Stories, World, Business and a few others. Once you are done customizing your library, you are now ready to start reading.

Trending Topics Settings

Trending Topics Settings

Reading and Sharing Articles

When it comes to reading your feeds, Currents takes an interesting approach that I don’t necessarily agree with. First off, there are a couple of different views you get, depending on the site you are looking at. For example, if you are looking at a feed that was already on Google Currents like ABC News, your view is somewhat different than ones that you add on your own. For these sites they have different sections that you can go into and read articles from each one. If you prefer to just see a list of items and not have them broken up into sections, you have this option as well. For sites that you manually add through Google Reader or on your own, you only have the option to view a list of your feeds.

DIfferent views for different feeds

DIfferent views for different feeds

When you ready to consume the different feeds that you have, you have to read each feed separately. Then, depending on the feed (and I am not sure how Google decides this), some articles are fully downloaded and some are not. If it’s cut short, you are able to read the full article by clicking on the See Original Article button and you will be taken to the web version within Google Currents.

Article

Article

As you are reading, you swipe left to right to view more of the article and if it has more than one picture you can tap on it and you can then see a gallery of the pics. They can also be read in both portrait and landscape mode.

Picture Gallery

Picture Gallery

With any reading app, sharing is a vital part and Google doesn’t disappoint here. You are provided with a nice array of sharing tools, including Google’s +1, email, Instapaper, Pinboard, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. They did a very good job of providing a fair amount of social sharing services in their first version and I honestly think they really don’t have to add more if they didn’t feel it necessary.

Sharing Options

Sharing Options

Thoughts

I like the clean design of the app; you can tell Google put some time into formatting it so that it would fit on the iPhone. Secondly, it was pretty easy to add just about any type of content I wanted to read, whether it was already on Currents or just adding my own. Overall, setting up my feeds was very intuitive and quick and I like the options that were given for adding more. Lastly, I really liked that Google Reader was incorporated as that is where I have all my feeds that I read on a regular basis and it made adding sites a breeze.

With all that being said, there were some things that I didn’t like. Being that I added so many feeds, it takes a while for them to update. I especially noticed this when I wouldn’t use the app for a couple of days and then tried to update my publications. I have used other apps that are able to upload the same amount of feeds, if not more, a lot quicker than this does. Secondly, and this is more of a personal preference, I like to have an option where I can read all of my articles in one feed. I didn’t like that I had to go into each different one to view what I wanted to read. Then lastly, I would like to see a more consistency on articles where I can just read them all in its entirety and not have to click on a link to read the rest of it.

Conclusion

Overall, Google did a pretty good job for an app that is in 1.0. Although there were some things that I didn’t like, it wouldn’t necessarily deter me from not using it. The hardest thing for me is that I just am not a fan of consistently reading on my iPhone. I would rather use this app on my iPad, which, by the way, Google does have out. Unfortunately, they arrived in this space a little too late for it to overtake other apps that are doing well, but they do have a solid product that I believe has a promising future.


Summary

A reader app for the iPhone where you can curate your own content.

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