Flipboard brings app to iPhone

LOS ANGELES -- Flipboard, one of the most downloaded and popular apps for the Apple iPad, is coming to the iPhone today.

The original app — which turns your social-network posts, photos and videos into a magazine-like visual experience — was designed solely for the iPad and launched shortly after the first iPad was released in July 2010. But "going onto the iPhone was our No. 1 request from users," Flipboard CEO Mike McCue says.

Most of Flipboard's 4.2 million users reach for Flipboard once or twice a day, in the morning with their coffee or in the evening as they're preparing for bed.

"But people really wanted to use Flipboard when they were standing on line at Starbucks, at the airport, walking back and forth," McCue says. And they wanted to do it with a one-handed operation, using their thumb to flip.

So the challenge for Flipboard was creating a smaller version that could be viewed properly on the iPhone.

A new feature, Cover Stories, houses some of the most recent updates. The most shared posts from your social networks — including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — will automatically sift to the top. A new search function tracks status updates, Twitter mentions and new Instagram photos.

The idea is to give readers "one place to quickly catch up," McCue says.

While Flipboard has received lots of acclaim on the iPad (Apple called it "App of the Year" in 2010), tablets only represent 5% to 7% of the mobile audience, while smartphones reach 50%, says Chris Silva, an analyst at Altimeter Group. "From a volume perspective, this is huge," he adds. The remaining percentage is traditional non-Internet connected cellphone users.

On the iPhone, Flipboard content is still bright and visual — just smaller, and you have to flip from post to post.

Silva doesn't think iPhone users will find the content too tiny. Many folks read books and articles on the iPhone all the time, he notes, "and Flipboard does a great job making it visual, and easier to digest."

Flipboard has raised $50 million from a variety of sources, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, actor Ashton Kutcher, former News Corp. president Peter Chernin and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. (McCue is a member of Twitter's board of directors.)

McCue says the company is bringing in money but is not yet profitable. It shares revenue with media partners that work with Flipboard. The company has some 60 partners — including USA TODAY — and has recently added Vanity Fair, Fast Company and Runner's World.