Hitpad: A Quick and Easy Way to Stay Current

There are so many ways to consume news if you happen to own an iPad. From a very capable standards compliant browser to feed readers, native apps straight from news outlets, RSS readers, among a bunch of other options. One vertical among them that has gotten the attention of indie developers and large media powerhouses are newsreaders that offer a mashup of content.

It’s a fun way to read articles on a snazzy newsreader. Most of them are iPad only and more of them come knocking ever so often. I personally have reviewed a couple of cool ones for our readers. The recent one that got my attention was Hitpad. Like its umpteen competitors, Hitpad also strives to present news in a compelling manner – could it persuade you to ditch Flipboard or another similar app. Is it really that compelling?

User Interface

If I have to comment based solely on its looks, I have mixed reactions. The design looks a bit dated, not by much, but columns, really? However from an accessibility and ease of use standpoint, I will give full marks to Hitpad. Trending topics across various categories are listed by default and you can get the new ones by using the refresh button at the top. I did miss the pull to refresh from the earlier versions, which was way more easier.

Trending Topics - Business

Trending Topics - Business

The columns have some poor color choices and each one is dedicated for a particular type of content – news, video, images and statuses. A search box makes things easier to find and the ratings icons are placed right at the top, if you were to express what’s on your mind. Except for the Statuses column, which is powered by Twitter, the rest of the results are pulled from Google.

Accessing Topics

Tap on the various categories displayed at the top to change the category of news items in display. Not an example of mind blowing implementation, but as long as it gets the job done, I’m totally fine with it! To be frank, it is only when I switched the topics did I finally got what the USP of Hitpad actually is. The app is all about trending topics. Yep, only those topics that are hot, right now. There is no way to access news from a whole bunch of blogs, popular or otherwise.

Categories at the Top

Categories at the Top

Based on the buzz a topic is receiving at a given time, it will show up in the trending topics section (of each category). If you plan to know anything about anything other than those listed in the trending section, you will have to launch a different feed reader!

How Real Is Real Time?

Ideally, a real time app should ensure that it cuts out the time taken to check out a lot of sources to stay current. Since most of the segments are powered by Google and only one powered by Twitter, I was a bit skeptical if the news was really real time. At first glance, I discovered the topics indeed were trending across the Internet and when you refresh, new topics showed up in no time at all.

News Preview

News Preview

The news items were from respectable outlets and were pretty much current. Tapping on an item reveals a few lines from the article and a link to the original source. In case of tweets, a preview of the link is displayed as well. But it took a while to get the preview loaded in some cases. Videos can be watched without having to leave the app and the previews in the photos section loaded instantly.

Tweet Preview

Tweet Preview

I began my review with the version earlier to the current 2.0 available in the iOS app store. The one thing that I couldn’t understand was why the number of items listed under category were so limited. But with the current version, that issue has been fixed and as soon as you reach the end of the listing in a column, new items are automatically fetched. It would be absolutely fantastic if the user were able to select the number of items that should be displayed under each category.

Sharing

Social Sharing

Social Sharing

Now that you are on top of the real time news cycle, it’s only natural that you will want to show the people that you are in the know. You can share news via email, Twitter or Facebook. Besides, Hitpad offers a whole lot of services to link to, right from Twitter and Facebook to Instapaper and Read It Later.

Final Thoughts

It’s good that I own an iPad. Else I would be loudly swearing and watching with envy the number of awesome apps that cater to an enthusiastic reader. Recently, I griped in our sister publication about how lame the newest Google Reader update is and how there is no real choice out there. In some aspects it’s really funny, when people refer to the web as open and the iOS app store as closed!

Given the number of choices, I am less thrilled by the current scenario of news and feed readers in the open web. That said, Hitpad is a neat little package that offers a refreshing window for checking out the latest from the world of news. The app is perfect for consuming bite sized information snippets that are hot right at this moment.

But, when compared to it’s competitors, the app falls short in the eye candy department. Considering how eye candy is pretty much the one thing that keeps users glued to the app, the developers should start tinkering with the user interface a bit. What say you?


Summary

Hitpad brings you rich bite-size information snippets about the important and worth-knowing topics of the day so you become current in no time and with very little effort.

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