Google has launched the iOS version of its new AI-powered Google News app, based on Google Play Newsstand, which it replaces. Available for both the iPhone and iPad (and Android), it’s dramatically better than the old Google News app experience.
Its ambition is to offer personalized content to users from “quality sources they trust” and to ensure that the app also “works for publishers” and supports their efforts as well. It also seeks to broaden and deepen reader perspectives with “full coverage” of almost every issue.
Given that it competes directly with Apple’s excellent news app, many people are naturally discussing how it compares and whether it will replace Apple News for iPhone owners. The short answer to both questions is no. But I will start using Google News beside Apple News and will likely now drop other news aggregators that are less compelling.
I’ll have a better sense of how Apple and Google News compare after a week or so of heavy usage. Previously, I had more or less abandoned Google News in favor of Apple News and individual publisher apps. The redesign will bring me back; it’s a dramatic (capital D) improvement, in terms of both the UI and the UX.
It uses your history and interests to create a “for you” personalized headlines feed, together with top stories. Google describes it as “a mix of the most important headlines, local news and the latest developments on the topics you’re interested in.”
Indeed, local news is one of the standout features of Google News, which was previously introduced on the web with a News redesign last year. Some people online have commented that there’s no comparable local news feature in Apple News. That’s not really accurate, but users must create a local news favorite/topic to see a structured collection of local news stories in the Apple app.
Every story in Google News comes with an icon to expand into “full coverage” of that issue. Full coverage offers a nearly exhaustive array of sources and perspectives on the topic. Google says this is a real-time, “360 degree view” of news stories and topics. And unlike the personalized feeds elsewhere, everyone sees the same content in full coverage. The company calls it “the most powerful feature of the app.”
A Newsstand option in the horizontal navigation at the bottom opens to a branded publisher “magazine rack” that readers can browse for content to add to their feeds and follow. If publications (such as the WSJ) require a subscription to access content, a pop-up will enable users to sign in or subscribe within the app, via a Google payment account. I haven’t tried to do this, but Google argues it radically simplifies subscriptions for consumers.
There’s cynicism among some journalists and publishers about Google News and the company’s motivations. However, I’m not in that camp.
Certainly, News seeks to capture and retain usage, but it’s also a tool for exposing readers to content they might otherwise not have seen. Google also says that the new app was a collaboration between the company and more than 60 publishers.