Zite and Flipboard were both iPad-only apps for the greater parts of their existences, but within three days of one another, both companies decided to port their apps onto the iPhone. Flipboard for iPhone launched Tuesday, and Zite released its iPhone app on Friday.
The two apps have several other similarities, including how they allow iPad owners to save their profiles and transfer their information to the iPhone, but the two companies differ in how they handle and deliver digital content. Here, we break down the iPhone apps for Flipboard and Zite to decide if one personalized magazine app has an edge over the other.
Look and Layout: Upon first glance, Flipboard's layout is much more conducive to big, bold and colorful photos, as they take up most of the space on the page. Flipboard's article's titles are lit up against the pictures, and if it were scrolling through articles instead of flipping through them, the design would perfectly mimic Windows 8's metro-style design. Zite's iPhone app has a much more straightforward layout, with the sections delineated on a carousel towards the top of the screen and the articles listed below. The format is adopted by almost every iPhone app out there, including USA TODAY, CNN and The Onion, so Flipboard gets the nod for its risk-taking and creative design.
Gestures: Flipping through articles and sections on Flipboard is fun, but the one downside to the photo-emphasized layout is there's no easy way to see all of the articles at a glance - the user simply needs to just keep flipping. Zite, on the other hand, lists all of its articles in a simple and easy-to-read format, and the gestures to scroll across articles and sections is much faster.
Social functionality: On Zite, sharing an article is easy with all of the major social options, including Facebook, Twitter and e-mail, localized to one button in the top right corner of the screen. On Zite, meanwhile, social functions are spread all over the place. You can star an article without going into it, which adds it as a favorite on Twitter, but sharing on Facebook or Twitter involves several more steps. You have to click the similar-looking share option in the top right corner of the screen, and post to either Facebook or Twitter after that. While posting an article to social media on Flipboard takes longer, it is much more customizable, with the ability alter the post exactly the way you like it and even add photos. In Zite, posting to Twitter is easy but you can't add photos, and posting to Facebook simply opens up the Facebook iPhone app for you so you can input the message. It's one more step on Flipboard, but at least you never have to leave the app.
Special features: The flipping animation on Flipboard is extremely clever, fun and realistic, allowing the reader to get a hint of the next page or go back to the last page mid-flip. On Zite, thumbs-up and thumbs-down icons at the bottom of every article remind the user that they have complete control over their reading experience. In Flipboard, if you accidentally click on an article, the application may think that you want more of that kind of news. Zite keeps its interface clean and simple in this way.
Conclusion: The two iPhone apps for Flipboard and Zite are both great ways to keep up on news that matters to you. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference between the two, but in the early going, Flipboard edges Zite's iPhone application in a number of ways.
Navigating Flipboard is entirely gesture-based, and while it's not so easy to see articles at a glance, it's extremely fun and beautifully designed. Images and photos earn the spotlight in Flipboard, and the experience is made complete with its comprehensive social functionalities. The simple sharing options like favoriting or retweeting an article are easy to find, and posting to Facebook and Twitter never lets you leave the app, and it lets you see exactly what your post will look like.
This is not to say that Flipboard's experience is far and away better than Zite's; on the contrary, Zite is a perfect news app that lets you find the articles you want quickly and easily, even if the design is a little muted color-wise. Zite's iPhone app looks like USA Today's iPhone app, in both its layout and navigation style, but it lacks a touch of style and a sense of fun.
Both apps will continue to face other competitors like AOL (Pulse), Yahoo (Livestand) and Google, which just launched its personalized magazine app Google Currents on Thursday, but right now, former iPad rivals Zite and Flipboard are off to a great start on the iPhone.