Flipboard Readies For iPhone Launch, International Push

News aggregation app Flipboard has introduced new features to support its upcoming iPhone version, whilst also apparently preparing to re-launch to compete with Chinese copycats.

The startup on Thursday upgraded its iPad app with a new Flipboard Accounts system that will let users read the same set of subscriptions on the iPhone app as they have on iPad.

CEO Mike McCue told our paidContent Advertising 2011 conference in October the iPhone app was coming soon and must support users reading content at different times and locations than the more lean-back, domestic tablet experience. (Video of his Q&A is available here.)

Flipping hemisphere

Meanwhile, Flipboard, whose English app was blocked by China in May, is planning a reboot including launching a Chinese version, according to an exec from the Sina (NSDQ: SINA) portal (via Technode), which has been working with Flipboard to enable sharing of articles to its Weibo microblog service.

Flipboard did not confirm international plans to paidContent. China, a country where online operators are prohibited from publishing certain content, could prove challenging – after all, Flipboard wants to be the place where users can read any content they choose, including that which passes through their social networks.

What’s more, the market is host to a glut of page-flipping news reader copycats, including Zaker, Xiaoguo, Tencent iCare, MagSina, Netease Reader and Bozong News.

The apps from MagSina and Netease (NSDQ: NTES), two of China’s largest mainstream portals, look and function so much like Flipboard they appear to have re-used Flipboard’s own interface design and possibly even underlying code.

Growing pipeline

Flipboard is growing fast and is busy. When we spoke with McCue in October, he said he had a pipeline of over 300 agreed-upon content feeds ready to add to Flipboard’s Content Guide.

The print-like tablet news reader segment, which was more or less created by Flipboard, is getting crowded in the west, too, with AOL (NYSE: AOL), Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) and, reportedly, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) now joining the likes of Zite and Pulse.

Thursday’s iPad upgrade also added Tumblr and 500px to the list of social services Flipboard users can get their content from, joining Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD), Google Reader, Flickr and Instagram.