When it comes to news apps, the template has pretty much been laid down over the years – you download the app, select the subjects/topics and/or news sources you want information from and about, and well, then sit back and let the back collect the news and display it to you. Most of the innovation has tended to revolve around the presentation of the news and the sources from which it was culled rather than the news itself – you had the tabby approach of Pulse, the magazinified look of Flipboard and so on. Which is why we must confess that we have taken a bit of a shine to Pipes, a news app that focuses instead on the subjects on which you want information.
For it is what you want news about that Pipes serves up. You actually can put a person’s name, a club’s name, a place’s name and app will build what it terms a news pipe about that particular subject. So whenever you tap on that particular pipe, you get news items pertaining only to that topic. The news itself is sourced from Google so you do tend to get most of the main news headlines on the relevant subject. You can of course read the articles in detail (they open within the app itself – no browser intervention needed), bookmark them and if you find them worthy, share them across your social networks. You get to create a maximum of ten pipes and arrange them in any order you like by dragging and dropping them. We don’t know whether this limit will be extended to accommodate in-app purchases but as of now, ten is as far as you can go pipe-wise. Mind you, the total number of pipes you get to see are eleven, because there is one ‘top stories’ pipe that cannot be moved or removed from the …er…pipeline. And in a very neat touch, you can find out which pipe is ‘trending’ by just giving the device a shake.
It ticks of all the customization boxes but where Pipes does come up a bit short is in terms of content itself. As we said, it has just one news source, Google, which itself is an aggregation of other news sources. The consequence is that one often gets repetitive news items and sometimes even relatively unrelated ones in one’s pipe – for instance, if you have a pipe for the iPhone, there is every chance that you will end up getting the same news from two sources or even a relatively trivial news item which happens to have the device mentioned in it. And well, those who like their news items to be presented with rich graphics might find Pipes a tad too plain.
All said and done, however, we must admit that we like the approach that Pipes takes to news, allowing the user to state what he or she wants to be kept informed about. Yes, it needs more sources and perhaps a sleeker interface but even without those, it is a breath of fresh air in the news app category. And well, the developers do say that they will keep at least one version of the app free. This one certainly is.
Available from: iTunes App Store