We had an explosion of news apps this week. Zite added an iPhone version of its app, so did Flipboard. Now Google has joined the party with Google Currents, a free app that creates a magazine for you based on sites that you like, as well as content from particular bloggers and commentators. The app is universal for iOS devices.
When you open Currents for the first time you're taken to a setup page. You can select from 'Publisher editions', which include sources like Forbes, Popular Science, Fast Company and many more. Those magazines may include video, animations, maps and social streams.
Then Currents provides what it calls 'trending editions', using Google algorithms to find the top stories in categories like sports, science and entertainment.
You can also incorporate blogs or feeds, and Google provides a helpful list, or you can select your own favorites. Currents can be used to read your content offline, and if you have more than one iOS device it will sync the content between them. You can also add anything from your Google Reader subscriptions
There is a handy search function, which many of the competing news apps don't have, and of course stories can be emailed, saved to Instapaper, or forwarded to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. The layout is easy on the eyes, and the various controls are obvious with buttons for home, back, forward and share.
There are some negatives. In multiple sessions with the app I found it rather slow using an iPad on a WiFi network. Yes, there is a lot of background downloading and processing, but competing apps like Zite, Flipboard and Pulse News are much faster. I don't see any indication that the app learns from my selections, which is the real attraction of Zite.
In Currents, I pick my sources, and I explore them. It does't have the wonderful news discovery aspect of Zite, and that will keep my use of Currents to a minimum. This is, of course, a first stab at an iOS magazine app from Google, and it will doubtless get better. That said, much of the competition is better now, but if you're looking for a news app, give it a trial to see if it meets your needs.