There are already a ton of newsreaders like Flipboard, LinkedIn Pulse, and several others available in the App Store. But what makes Pipes compelling is its clean interface and simple process for adding news items. You simply search for a topic and Pipes gives you a feed about the topic with big colorful buttons for easy browsing.
When Pipes launched, it got off to a rocky start, with all the new users overwhelming the servers making the app turn up errors when I tried to view news stories. The developers have since made several tweaks to the code and the app appears to be running more smoothly. Even after the fixes, I still got a couple of errors on certain stories, but they were few and far between.
It doesn't take much to get started with Pipes, but connecting with your social networks will give you more coverage of your topics with appropriate posts from sites like Twitter and Facebook. The app also supports Pocket so you can save stories that will sync across devices and you can read them offline.
To get started making your own pipes, simply touch the plus sign in the upper right, then perform a search. The app comes with a Top Stories pipe for general news, but you can search for something like "World Cup" to get stories surrounding the international soccer tournament. That's what sets Pipes apart from most newsreaders; you pick the topics you care about and the app makes a custom feed of stories based on what it can find around the Web.
Once you've made a few pipes, you'll see big squares on your screen that say World Cup and other topics you have chosen. You can tap on each to see the latest headlines for that topic. With a large number of pipes, trying to find a specific pipe is difficult by swiping through the list, but fortunately the app has a search function so you can get right to what you're looking for quickly.
One cool thing about Pipes is the way it handles notifications. For each pipe you create, you can choose to be notified once, twice, or not at all during the day. This is useful because, as in my example of the World Cup pipe, you might want more than one notification to make sure you're getting all the scores throughout the day. In the case of a musical artist you might like, you are more likely to turn off the notifications, because getting daily notifications for the artist would make much less sense.
To customize your notifications, you simply touch the eye-shaped icon next to the plus sign in the upper right. From here you'll get a list of all your pipes and you can choose between zero, one, or two notifications from each individual pipe each day.
Pipes is great for checking news and getting notifications about your favorite subjects, but it's not perfect.
For starters, the app has no included browser, which means that -- while the app has abridged versions of news items -- if you go to the source Website for the rest of the story, the app opens your default Web browser. The problem with this is, once you're reading the story, there's no quick way back to the app. I mentioned this to developers Doodle Creatives, and they assured me an in-app browser was on the way in coming updates.
It also doesn't always show the news source. When you touch a headline within one of your pipes, it opens up a shorter version of the story within the app. If you want to read more, you can touch the "View on Web" button. In addition to not being able to get back to the app once you open a story in a browser, the portion of the story within the app doesn't always show the source. Knowing which Website the story is coming from is important, so I hope this is something the developer will add in future updates.
The other problem I encountered was a bug. In making my list of pipes, I made a mistake in the title of a pipe so it wasn't turning up any results. I created a second pipe with the correct spelling that worked fine, but now I wanted to delete the other pipe. The app lets me swipe from right to left to "delete" the pipe and it disappeared from my list. But when I access my list of pipes from elsewhere in the app, suddenly the deleted pipe was back. This bug is frustrating, but the developers told me they are still ironing out all the rough edges over the next couple of weeks.
Pipes is a great idea that helps get you the news you want to read quickly. It has a nice modern interface design and I really like the customizable notification system.
The app still needs work, though. An in-app browser is a must for news apps because when you finish a story, you're going to want to go back to your pipes. This app forces you to relaunch it every time. Also, the obvious bug deleting pipes is something that definitely needs to be fixed.
Still, in talking to the developers it seems they are on track to smooth out the rough edges. I think Pipes is off to a great start, and if they keep their word on fixes and new features, it could be the next go-to app for quickly getting the news. Once that happens, I'll reevaluate the app to adjust my ratings.