Despite not getting a more pixel-packed display, the thinner and lighter iPad 2 is going to be a prime content consumption device, just like the O.G. iPad before it. Zite is an iPad magazine with a novel premise: it learns what you like and tailors your publication accordingly.
What is it?
Zite, Free, iPad. Right from the start, Zite wants to learn about you. Upon firing up the app, it asks for your Twitter handle and your Google Reader account info (if you so choose), both of which it mines to find out what kind of stuff you're into. Next step, more customization: Zite displays a list of categories - world politics, interior design, photography, etc - which become the sections of your personalised periodical. After that you get a Flipboard-style mash-up of articles and images from various sources, though instead of these being links that your friends have recommended, they're ones Zite has noticed gaining steam in various corners of the web and thinks you might be interested in.
When you read an article, you have the option to give that particular piece a thumbs up or thumbs down, data with which Zite further refines its idea of your taste. All in all it's an intriguing idea, and one that crucially corrals content that's not in your usual ecosystem of friends, feeds followees.
Who's it good for?
People who like reading on the iPad; people interested in finding new sources for the topics they're interested in.
Why's it better than alternatives?
There are a good deal of apps that will show you the content you tell it to - or, in Flipboard's case, the content your friends tell it to - but Zite is interesting in that it learns about you and finds the content on its own. Flipping through my own personalised issue made me realise what an unwavering routine my internet browsing has become. Check twitter; check Facebook; check RSS; rinse; repeat. Better still: Zite gets better the more you read it, gaining an ever more nuanced sense of the topics you like to read about.
How could it be even better?
The main problem, right now, is that it's slow. Opening the app, switching sections, pulling up individual articles, starting embedded videos - each transition point is accompanied by an annoying lag, one significantly longer than those found in many similar apps. And while clean and usable, the visual layout of the aggregated pages is static and uninspired - it unfortunately has the peppy, animated UI of Flipboard to be compared against here. Still, Zite's brand new, so I expect it to get optimised with future updates.
Zite, iPad [iTunes]