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Hands-on with News in iOS 9: Apple's response to Facebook and Snapchat's content platforms

Oscar Raymundo | July 15, 2015
News is a flashy and fast reading app but more publishers need to adopt Apple News Format before it can truly shine.

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Like Facebook and Snapchat, Apple has partnered with news publishers to deliver a beautiful and fast-loading editorial experience on its home turf. 

On Thursday, the iOS 9 public beta introduced a completely new native app: News. Similar to Flipboard, News uses RSS feeds to deliver stories from different publishers together in a magazine-style layout. News, however, does away with Flipboard's built-in social capabilities, like incorporating a feed of just links shared by your Twitter network.

Previously, iOS devices had a Newsstand folder that served as a hub for newspaper and magazine apps. Newsstand is gone in iOS 9--all your Newsstand apps are still there, and any newspaper or magazine subscriptions remain active, but the apps are placed in a regular (read: deleteable) folder instead.

I played around with News on an iPad Air 2 and tested all its reading features. But since this News app is part of iOS 9's public beta, we expect it to really come into its own when iOS 9 is officially released this fall.

Personalized app that learns' what you like to read

To get started, News asks you to select at least three "channels" from a list of content publishers. You can also select some of your favorite topics like "Tech Industry" or "Android (Operating System)"--both of which had interesting source images attached to the topic, as several Twitter users pointed out. The image for "Tech Industry" was a profile image of Taylor Swift (which may not actually be a joke). And the picture Apple used to illustrate "Android"? Just a photo of Tim Cook laughing. LOL, indeed.

Once you select some of your favorite channels and topics, News creates a custom magazine for you with articles pulled from different sources. Apple has kept the "For You" section from Apple Music, but in News this tab is your homepage, if you will, updated continuously whenever one of your favorite channels posts an article. As with Apple Music, News keeps "learning" about which types of articles you like reading so that it can surface similar content. Simply "love" a story by pressing on the heart icon.

The "Favorites" section is where you can view, manage, and edit the channels and topics you are subscribed to. "Explore" has a list of suggested channels and topics for you to consider adding. And if you can't find your local newspaper or favorite website, you can always "Search" for it. (It's worth noting that if your favorite blog isn't in Apple News, you can't add its RSS feed on your own.) Lastly, "Saved" is akin to the Reading List in Safari, a place where you can store all the articles you wish to read later. It also includes a History tab, which you can clear if you ever spend too much time reading US Weekly.

 

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