News apps on the iPad are getting more and more interesting. With a lot of news going behind paywalls, we're seeing a trend toward more and more free news apps that are increasingly creative and functional. Pulse is already a popular news reader, and Zite has entered the game with an excellent app that checks half a million sites for news that will be of interest to you.
Now you can add Hitpad to the list. This free app has an interesting take on getting you the news. Using some proprietary algorithms, it determines what people are interested in on the Web across various media, like Twitter and video. It then displays them according to topic, so if you tap on a listed subject (like Charlie Sheen for example), you get a screen full of headlines about Sheen, videos and tweets. When you click on the headers, you get transported to the source web page in Hitpad's built-in browser, so publishers should like it as well.
The GUI is nice, and there should be virtually no learning curve in getting up to speed. Stories can be shared to Facebook, Twitter and by email. Google provides the news stories, videos and photos. Relevant websites are also included. Once you bring up a story, Hitpad also displays related stories, which is a very nice feature.
As always, there are some negatives. In general, you are stuck reading about what is popular. It's not a news app for people interested in arcane subjects. You can type any search terms you like, and the app will respond, but you can't save your favorites, which is a real negative. The developers say that Hitpad learns from what you are reading, and while I'm sure that's true, I couldn't discern any evidence of that after using it for a couple of days.
I'm pretty much a hard news reader, and when I opened the app this morning, some of the top stories I saw were Christian Slater, Ashley Judd and Tammy Wynette. There were stories mixed in about the nuclear disaster in Japan and oil prices. If you change the search criteria to US News, the list became much more relevant for my news taste. There are sections for Entertainment, Business, Sports, Technology and US News. There is no way to create a new section, however. I also don't see any evidence the app constantly refreshes. Close the app, bring it up, and you'll see the same list in the same order. It doesn't look like the internet got pinged at all. But if you change sections, then the app refreshes.
Hitpad is an interesting take on news discovery, if what you want to discover is already popular. I see it as an adjunct to apps like Flipboard, Zite or Pulse News. I expect there will be a lot of positive changes to Hitpad, and they are welcome. Since it's free, it's worth a download and your own personal evaluation, and I invite you to share your comments with us below.