Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Dec. 8 launched Google Currents, its long-awaited magazine-reading application for smartphones and tablets, joining an increasingly competitive field led by Flipboard and Zite.
Google Currents will let users access and read articles from more than 180 publications on Android smartphones and tablets, as well as Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPads and iPhones. Full-length articles from CNET, Forbes, PBS, Huffington Post and other publications will be accessible with the swipe of a finger across smartphone and tablet displays.
U.S. users can download the app from the Android Market and the Apple App Store and begin subscribing to the available publications.
Once subscribed, users may then add RSS, video and photo feeds, as well as Google Reader subscriptions they’re already following, to make the app’s content more comprehensive.
For those in the mood for new content discovery, a trending tab will offer related content that matches readers’ preferences. Currents users can share content with their contacts on the Google+ social network.
Content users access is then available offline, cached by Google, so that users can read articles even without a Web connection.
A video of the demo shows Currents looking quite sleek, though ReadWriteWeb found it to be decent and its social features “lackluster” because the app emphasizes Google+ and hides sharing access to Facebook and Twitter. TechCrunch also has a balanced review of the software user experience.
Google is also launching a self-service platform to let publishers design, brand and customize their Web content for Google Currents. Publishers can connect their account with Google Analytics to get more information about their readers’ preferences.
“For example, if you’re a small regional news outlet, a non-profit organization without access to a mobile development team, or a national TV network with Web content, you can effortlessly create hands-on digital publications for Google Currents,” explained Mussie Shore, the Currents product manager, and Sami Shalabi, the technical lead for Currents, in a blog post.
Google, which less than 24 hours after launching the app is already taking flak for the fact that Currents is only available in the United States, is entering a field that is heating up.
Flipboard is the leader, thanks to its large presence on the iPad, which has sold over 32 million units. Zite follows Flipboard, and then there is Yahoo Livestand, which the company launched for the iPad last month.
While Currents may be late, one thing it did do right out of the chute was offer articles across all Android and iOS devices. Flipboard and Zite, for example, just offered access to their content via the iPhone this week.