Flipboard for iPhone: A look at its form, function, and design.

Here’s what happens whenever I pick up my iPhone in the morning: First, I take things slow; I launch Reeder, and I check if there’s any new articles from my favorite writers. I then open up the “Design” folder I’ve so intricately curated, to see if there’s anything interesting I’d like to send to Instapaper.

Morning Routine

Second, I start to digest the things that happened overnight; I quit Reeder, and I swipe across home screens until I reach Twitteriffic. There, I skim through tweets, looking for anything that mentions some sort of news topic I’ve been following through the week, and then I send the links from those tweets to Instapaper, where I try to restrain myself from adding less than 10 articles a session.

Third, and foremost, I launch Instapaper. The reading experience of Instapaper is the most prominent of the three, which is why I open Instapaper as ‘the best for last’. I then load up my queue, probably containing at least, 20-30 items, and I begin reading (or skimming) through those articles.

As you can tell, this morning routine of mine seems a little too complicated, and if I had to add a fourth step, which would be to open Safari to browse Dribbble and the like, my entire morning routine would be ruined with uncomfortable address-bar typing, and browsing through an unorganized hierarchy of bookmarks.

Though, I didn’t really find it all too complicated whenever I did so– up until the release of Flipboard on the iPhone, of course.

Enter Flipboard.

Flipboard was once originally an iPad app, which launched mid-2010, bringing with it a bucketload of positive feedback and reviews. The iPhone version of the app, however, was released just this past week, and just like its older brother, it sparked a lot of positive feedback, including an endorsement tweet by Apple’s Phil Schiller:

So, like any willing nerd, I hurried, and downloaded Flipboard on my iPhone. Having never used it before on an iPad, I spent a lot of my time toying with it, and tweaking it to my liking. After a couple of hours of playing with the app, it somehow changed the way I use my iPhone, not only in the morning, but whenever I pick it up.

In fact, here’s what happens whenever I pick up my iPhone, after the day I downloaded the app:

I launch Flipboard. I wait for the refresh. Boom– everything’s there.

I have to say, Flipboard on the iPhone is a solution to a problem I have never even bothered to notice.


When I fired up Flipboard for the first time, I was greeted with a nice, welcoming phrase, a photo of what seemed like a foggy city skyline, and the animated woman at the bottom right of the screen, holding what looked like a pair of binoculars as she looked at the view. The phrase included at the bottom left corner of the screen, “You can see everything from here” truly describes what the app was made for, and of course, it’s worth mentioning the witty pun included as the woman pans side to side looking at the view of the city, also being described by the phrase mentioned before.

Witty Pun

As I’ve stated earlier, I have never actually used or seen the iPad version of the Flipboard app, which meant that I had to find my way through its, from what I’ve heard, revolutionary UI.

While I was still smiling at the ingenious pun included in the welcome screen, there was a subtle page-flipping animation, moving the bottom half of the welcome screen up and down. As it was animating, it was also revealing what seemed like another page, underneath the welcome screen. I tried to tap the animation, but nothing happened. It was when I decided to scroll down on the page, the page flip had actually occurred.

It was brilliant: the fact that it was teaching me, a first-time user, how to use the app with a relatively simple, page-flip animation. Later on in the app, I then found out that the page-flipping UI is what gives Flipboard its iconic name (At first I thought Flipboard was called so because I thought there was going to be some turn-over flipping animation as it loaded articles).

After the welcome screen, Flipboard gave me the option to either “Get Started” or to sign in to a Flipboard account. I couldn’t go with the latter, as I thought only the people that owned the iPad version of Flipboard would be able to access that bit. Undoubtedly, I hit “Get Started”, and then it showed me a tiled panel, asking me what kind of categories I’d like to begin with. I thought it was like some kind of questionnaire, as to tailor the app to suit my needs– but I then found out it was actually for the kinds of articles I’d like subscribed to my Flipboard. Soon, after what seemed like the initial setup of the app, I was brought to what looked like the main screen of the app.

The UI and the layout of the app was a combination of both familiarity and clean design; The tiled photos, white overlay text and the placement of the tiles, was a subtle reminder of Microsoft’s minimal Metro UI.

Unlike Metro, though, the experience within the app is totally different. Flicking up from the main screen, as to scroll, gives you the iconic page-flipping animation, bringing you an ingeniously-preloaded page packed with beautiful photographs, eye-catching headlines, and much more. Tapping on one of the tiles takes you into that section, as a sliding page moves over the tiles menu. Flicking up takes you through a stroll through the latest articles, greeting you with (some) high-quality photographs, headlines, and quotes. As you tap into an article you find interesting, another page slides over the current screen. The article, which may be taken in from an RSS feed or through one of Flipboard’s content channels, is formatted in a way which distinctively reflects that of the website’s main theme, colors, typography, or maybe even a combination.

In fact, the typography within the app is very well done, that I prefer reading lengthy posts within Flipboard, rather than my favoured “best-for-last” app, Instapaper.

As I was playing with the app, I also found some amazing little tidbits; When flicking downwards on the homepage, or even on the main page of a tile’s section, it displays a Tweetie-esque “Release to refresh” ideal. I found that quite useful, especially while browsing through the Twitter section as I constantly try to reload for any new tweets. Aside from that, swiping towards right functions as a perfect “back one page” gesture, especially when you’re busy holding something else with your left hand (like a camera) trying to browse Flipboard. Another interesting thing I found, is that if you sign in to either Twitter or Facebook, you can update your status within the app itself.

I find that Flipboard is quite handy, because it’s like the swiss army knife of internet media consumption.

Overall, Flipboard was designed as a personal, digital, magazine, and I think the UI and even the UX of the app directly aims toward that. There’s so many nice things in the app, that it’d take me almost half a day to count them and list them all. Though, if I had to improve something, in my opinion, I sometimes find the tile menu pages a little bit cluttered, especially because of both the reload icon and the settings icon at the bottom left and right sides of the screen. Also, within an article, I find the top navigation bar quite annoying, as it stays fixed up the top of the article, taking up some valuable screen reading “real-estate”.

But just those two still can’t outweigh the wonderful aesthetic quality the app truly has.

All the apps in one

In summary, Flipboard succeeds greatly, in terms of both form and function. It’s a powerful, personalised app; it is great for power users, it’s clean and simple, and it’s one of the best apps on my iPhone, in my opinion. Flipboard replaced three of my most favoured apps on my iPhone. It’s like a swiss army knife for checking in and out of updates. It’s the best app to open for those in-between times and those dull, times of the day. It’s the first app I end up tapping, whenever I pick up my iPhone.

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