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Pipes review: A great newsreader that needs a little work

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The Good Pipes lets you choose news stories by topic, then delivers the news to you with an easy-to-use interface. You can control how many notifications you get for each topic.

The Bad With no in-app Web browser, there's no easy way back to the app. Stories in the app don't always show where the source material is from. The delete function doesn't work.

The Bottom Line Great for reading about news items that interest you, Pipes is a valuable resource, but it needs more features to compete with other popular newsreaders.

7.1 Overall
  • Setup 9
  • Features 6
  • Interface 8
  • Performance 7

Pipes (iOS|Android) is a newsreader app that lets you pick your favorite subjects, then delivers news items in an easy-to-use interface with notifications when new stories show up.

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.

Getting setup

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.

Making sure you stay connected

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.

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