Furthermore, scrolling through the News app’s feed gives no indication of which articles take advantage of Apple News Format, something that Facebook accomplishes with a small lightning bolt symbol next to Instant Articles. A greater emphasis on Apple News Format would instantly elevate Apple News and give readers an extra reason to open it a couple extra times a day.
But even more an design, the biggest hurdle any news app needs to clear is organization. It seems like a simple enough concept—-collect articles I’m interested in, filter out the ones I’ve read, show me what I’m most interested in first, and let me easily find and add new sources. It’s not that Apple News doesn’t do these things—it’s that it doesn’t do them any better than other services.
Like Apple Music, Apple News’ biggest strength is discovery. Aside from picking your favorite “channels,” the app also does a fine job of collecting news about topics you have expressed interest in, but for the most part, finding stories is mostly a hit-or-miss affair. There’s no way to gauge what’s popular or trending, and the buttons at the bottom of the screen are useful with navigation, but it feels like something is missing, and not just a slide-out menu. Favorites, Explore and Search can easily be merged into a single tab, freeing up two slots that can bring Apple News to the next level.
When I first started using Apple News I was surprised that Reading List wasn’t included. I don’t use Safari’s Reading List feature, but I’m constantly saving stories to my Instapaper queue. Even if the stories are from sources already in my Apple News feed, there’s no guarantee I’m going to find them, especially if I don’t get to it for a few days. If Apple News could pull in my Instapaper queue or Safari Reading List into a synced tab, I’d spend a lot more time with it.
The Shared Links feature in Safari would be just as useful. In the browser, this feature collects a chronological list of links posted by your Twitter friends, but adding it as a tab in Apple News would bring a breaking-news component that the app currently lacks. I suspect it’s a fairly underutilized feature in Safari, but in Apple News it would be an excellent companion to your main feed, offering news as it happens and opening up another avenue for exploration.
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For a reading app with an emphasis on personalization, there’s a surprising lack of customization in Apple News. The only options you’ll find are back in the Settings app, where you can toggle minor things like background refreshes and RSS previews. An iBooks-style settings pane with themes, fonts, and brightness customization would go a long way here, as would the ability to view stories in Safari’s stripped-down Reader mode.
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