December 9, 2011
Zite, the popular personalized news magazine for iPad, has arrived on the iPhone/iPod touch. The free Zite app is now universal thanks to an update that became available moments ago in the App Store. First launched in March, Zite is unique in that it learns what you want and gets smarter as you use it. In other words, Zite learns as you use it to bring you only those stories that you will find most compelling from a variety of sources across the web. Fortunately, Zite for iPhone retains much of what made the service great on the iPad, including the same great easy-to-read and stylish interface. Except now, it has been optimized for Apple’s popular handset. In October, Zite Version 1.2 introduced the world to Sybil, a login tool that allows family and friends to create different profiles on the same iDevice. With Zite for iPhone, a user can use the same profile and therefore, access it on either iDevice. For those users without an iPad, a new profile can be created on the iPhone. About The App We’ve had the opportunity to use Zite for iPhone prior to today’s release and also had the opportunity to discuss the new product with Zite CEO Mark Johnson. Here are our initial thoughts. Zite for iPhone allows scanning through your personalized magazine using the app’s Section Carousel or by swiping from left-to-right through your sections. Each category includes a number of articles, each which is shown using an up-down approach. To read an article, simply click on it. On the article screen, Zite provides some valuable functionality including the ability to change the text size and style. You can also click on the globe icon to read the story from its source, and evaluate the article using the thumbs-up/thumbs-down tool. Finally, stories can be shared with others via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and email, among other services. To add content to Zite, click Sections on the Carousel. From here, you can connect your Twitter, Google Reader and/or Read It Later accounts. Next, you will select content from a preselected list of topics (Entrepreneurship, Personal Finance, Sports). You can also find new sections using the app’s search feature. Keep in mind; your selections are not set in stone as they can be changed at any time. Plus, any changes made on the iPhone are also made on the iPad and vice-versa. Zite learns your interests from both explicit (e.g. thumbs up/thumb-down) and implicit (e.g. what stories you click on) feedback. The result is Zite gets smarter as you use it and delivers news that matches your tastes and interests. According to Johnson:
“Personalization is key to news discovery. But, as soon as you have personalization on one device, you want your personalization to become ubiquitous. The iPhone is the next logical device for Zite and it brings us closer to our goal over the next year to bring Zite to all major platforms.”Overall, we found Zite for iPhone to be an enjoyable experience. However, it isn’t perfect. For one, the Carousel real estate is much too small, depending on the size of your thumbs. Through multiple tests, we often fumbled from section to section even when we didn’t want to. With this in mind, we recommend moving from section to section by swiping left-to-right and vice versa, and ignore the Carousel. Second, because Zite offers a lot of content, your connection speed plays a huge role in how well the app performs. Naturally, Zite works best with Wi-Fi. However, we saw some obvious lags when connected to 3G. On Edge, forget about it; the app simply doesn't perform well enough to make it worth it. We’re hoping Zite for iPhone will eventually include an offline-viewing feature, similar to what is now available in the new Google Canvas app. Not having this functionality isn’t a deal breaker; however, it is important enough to note. Zite for iPhone’s arrival comes at a time when other news providers are also bringing their products to Apple’s handset. Just this week, Flipboard for iPhone arrived, as did Google Canvas, and a significant Flud update. While it is still too early to determine which iPhone news app is best, Zite is certainly a worthy candidate and comes recommended. Download the universal Zite app today in the App Store.