Google Currents

Google Currents

The digital magazine that constantly updates

Ever since the appearance of Flipboard, many app developers have tried to recreate and improve upon the idea of a digital magazine for your tablet or smartphone, and now technology powerhouse Google has unveiled its impressive effort in the form of Google Currents.

The app is centered around the idea that you subscribe to various news feeds, customising what information you see, and are then able to read it in a smart, sleek interface. On first inspection this is what Google has achieved, with an icon-centric homepage leading into individually styled newsfeeds that have been designed with looks in mind.

There is definitely a magazine feel to the feeds as you swipe through the latest stories, and although shorter stories tend to leave some wasted white space when tapped and viewed in full screen, the layout works well. Considering that most articles have their social network links and any image galleries built in at their end of each piece, you can get quite a lot out of reading in one article.

It’s also worth noting that each feed has incorporated its own Currents version of their website for their links, which highlights the sense that time has been spent putting each source’s area of the app together, and that only increases the trust you place in Google Currents to give you the latest news.

The app’s functionality is another plus point to using Currents, given the simplicity of the interface and the ease with which you can customise your feed. On the home screen there is a split between your library of feeds and a ticker of top stories, with one tap of the Library tab opening the edit page, where you can browse Google’s various categories and suggestions.

If you have a Google Reader account, you can also sync your feeds with Currents, allowing for an even greater range of content for you to view within the app. It would be nice to have the ability to edit your Google Reader feeds, as despite the amount of range, you never feel completely free of the in-app categories pushing certain feeds your way.

While the Library section has minor flaws, the other tab, Trending, is a great addition to the app. Fully customisable, it shows the top five most popular stories from any of the news categories you select to receive them from. This is done by sliding between on and off on each section’s switch. It’s as simple as that to quickly get the most read stories in one place.

Additionally, if you tap the title of a trending piece, a list of associated stories is generated for you. Even more impressively, there is a user-generated tab that shows you all user-generated content on the topic, mostly in the form of amateur videos.

There is no doubting that as a news source, Google Currents is a formidable app. It’s also good to see that it has finally travelled over the pond from the US and is available on iOS and Android in the UK. However, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s a bit too clinical. Compared to apps like Flipboard, Google Currents feels a little bland, despite its obvious strengths. Apps like AOL’s Editions were really different when it came to presenting you the news, and while that app has its faults, it nonetheless stood out. Currents feels a little too conformist, and doesn’t really push the boundaries in the exciting way you might expect.

Rated 4 out of 5

Flipboard’s quieter, cleverer but more straight-laced cousin is worth a look, but don’t expect fireworks.