How do you get your news currently? Because both Apple and Google are coming for you with their revamped news reading apps.
Apple News and Google News are going head-to-head in the news category trying to become dominant players before apps from China like Toutiao make their way to the U.S. market. It’s not just news though, each will also be serving up your favorite blog posts and salacious gossip stories as well.
Let’s lay out the differences between the two apps and name our favorite of the two.
The foundation is similar
Apple News is only available on iOS devices (iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watch), but Google News is available on Android and iOS.
While both of the apps have their unique taste and flair for how news is gathered and presented, each follows a similar pattern. You tell it what publications and topics you like and the app will learn what stories it should show you.
The name of the game isn’t just random stories with these apps. Each wants to personalize the reading experience to keep you coming back often, throughout the day.
Apple News – a practical approach to news
Apple News is broken into five sections along the bottom: For You, Spotlight, Following, Search, and Saved.
The app always opens to the news for you. It refreshes automatically in the background so each time you open it, throughout the day, it’s ready with the latest information. First with the most important and slowly fading to the more benign, grouping articles by publication or topic.
The Spotlight section changes depending on the time of day, so, if you open it in the late afternoon it could say, evening digest, or something else. This section spotlights one story at the top, curated by humans. This section is meant to be the most important or best story of the day, unlike the For You section which dumps an endless list of stories around your interests.
Since everything is personalized, the Digest story also won’t necessarily be the same one for everyone.
Under Following it will show the channels and topics you’re following as well as new suggestions it gets from your web browsing and stories you’ve previously read.
Search and Saved are both obvious and straightforward. It’s a little peculiar that there’s a dedicated search button when you can search in the Following section as well. Saved will show both stories you wanted to read later as well as read history for quick access to past stories.
Swiping left on a story throughout the app will give you the options to save, share, or love it, while swiping right will let you dislike or report it.
There’s not much about Apple News that can be classified as bad because it gets to the heart of what you’re there for and strips the rest away. However, some may count its default notification settings – which can be a little aggressive – as bothersome.
Beyond those few extra sliding controls, Apple News is, pretty much, what you see is what you get. It has plenty of polish, but it’s on the minimal side, getting out of the way for the content you’re interested in consuming.
Google News – a news app with layers
On the flipside, Google News is a little more clever and comprehensive about the news and stories it provides to the reader. It has a more depth, but shouldn’t be overwhelming.
Google News also starts with a For You section on the bottom left, but as part of that section it also shows the current weather in the top right of the screen and breaks down what it thinks are the five most important stories for you.
Under the five defined stories, it continues to break out more stories it thinks you’d like and groups multiple publications around one story. When there’s something noteworthy you can swipe left to see how other publications are telling the same story.
The other three sections across the bottom are: Headlines, Favorites, and Newstand. There is a persistent search icon in the top left if you do need that function.
Headlines will give you more freedom in the stories you see as it breaks out different sections like business, technology, and entertainment, among others.
Favorites not only holds your saved stories, but will show locations, sources, and topics that you can follow, or that it has found for you.
One thing about Google News that gives it a little more depth is the use of moving imagery and videos. Google is trying to pull in more multimedia than Apple is by default and it likely will lead to more consumption.
Newsstand breaks out possible topics, categories, and publications you may be interested in, but aren’t currently following.
In the settings you can have Google News email you the daily news once in the morning. You can also change the push notifications you are seeing, similar to Apple News.
And the winner is…
Apple News is a good app, and may be convenient with its prominent place on iPhones, but I’ve seen Google News surface more relevant content, more often, after living with both for several weeks. And, ultimately, isn’t that what you want out of a news app?
It helps that Google News works on a wide range of devices and that it delights with little touches like the current weather when you open the app. Neither is a slouch, but Google News edges out Apple News just slightly as of now.