The truth about what's actually good and bad about Apple News+

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2
It's been hugely hyped and roundly criticized, but after more than a month's intensive use, Apple News+ has proved to have very specific good and bad features. Before you sign up, or before you cancel, here's a true Pro/Con list for Apple News+.




Somewhere between Apple's hype and everyone else's criticisms, lies the truth about the Apple News+ service. Any service's quality and worth is always going to be subjective. Yet still there are definite pluses and minuses which can help you reach the only important issue that matters -- whether Apple News+ is right for you.

AppleInsider has already looked at alternatives and we've even shown you how to create your own news service, but this time we're strictly concerned about the good and the bad of Apple News+ after more than a month of testing.






So whether you've only seen Apple boasting about its brilliance, or you've heard criticism that Apple News+ isn't as good as its third-party predecessor, Texture, here are the facts.

Comparing with Texture

Let's get Texture out of the way first. This was an app and a service whereby you could read magazines and newspapers on various devices. Apple bought it, shut down the Windows side, then rebranded it, and worked Texture into its existing Apple News service to create Apple News+.

The general consensus is that Texture was better. It is certainly true that a cross-platform service is better for us all than one solely reserved for Apple devices.

A sample catalog page from the old Texture service
A sample catalog page from the old Texture service


Yet there's also been a claim that Texture's navigation, how you found the magazines you wanted, was better than it is now on Apple News+. We don't buy that because we've found some oddities in how Texture cataloged its magazines. Mind you, Apple News+ has exactly the same problems.

Where it's simply wrong to say that Texture was better, is in the number of magazines you could read. Both Texture and the new Apple service have boasted hundreds of magazines, but in Texture's case it was pretty close to exactly 200.

While the magazines included on both Texture and the new Apple service vary by region -- and Texture had two tiers of subscription offering different sets of titles -- we have tried comparing them. It looks to us as if Texture had around 22 magazine titles that Apple News+ does not, and Apple News+ has about 75 titles that Texture didn't.

Apple has added more titles to do with music, art, technology and sport. Its most significant additions are Scientific American plus BBC titles such as its science and gardening ones. The magazines it has lost since Texture closed include pretty big titles such as Smithsonian and GQ Style.

Yet Apple News+ has GQ. And while it doesn't have Martha Stewart Weddings, it has Martha Stewart Living. You can expect publishers who are trying out one title will bring in their others if the service is successful enough.

The good

Apple News+ will be an Apple Music-like success and not a Ping-like failure only if there is enough in it for enough people to enjoy enough. The range of titles, the way you read them, the whole experience is crucial and Apple News+ has a lot going for it.

Firstly, every magazine has both its own topic page and its issues. The topic page has news stories from the publisher, plus it's headed by not just the current magazine, but an entire year's worth of back issues.

Typical magazine pages. Notice the issues at the top, the latest stories down below -- and, on the left,  the hole in Vogue's page because Apple News+ hasn't loaded a story yet.
Typical magazine pages. Notice the issues at the top, the latest stories down below -- and, on the left, the hole in Vogue's page because Apple News+ hasn't loaded a story yet.


Being able to always get the latest issue is a big point in favor of Apple News+ because if you're interested in even one title, you're getting it faster than through the mail. If you're regularly interested in more than one, the $9.99 US or $12.99 Canadian subscription cost is a bargain.

And then the back issues are a huge factor. You can get enjoyably lost going back through these twelve months of articles and that's what helps you become steadily more hooked on the service. When you first open it, you can be unsure that there's anything you want to read, but then as you dig further, you are more and more rewarded.

That's partly because there are just some world-class magazines on here and you'll come to see which ones you like. However, it's also because Apple News+ also learns what you like and presents stories to you in that irresistible just-one-more fashion.

What's more, when you find an issue you're interested in, you can very quickly be reading it. Despite their being full of gorgeous double-page spread graphic designs, you don't have to wait for all of that to download before you can start reading. It works in the background, bringing you true magazine quality reading, but without delays.

Left: the Rolling Stone magazine's topic page. Middle: the latest issue's cover. Right: a feature reworked in Apple News Formatted to make it more readable on iPhone as well as iPad
Left: the Rolling Stone magazine's topic page. Middle: the latest issue's cover. Right: a feature reworked in Apple News Formatted to make it more readable on iPhone as well as iPad


Then we keep saying that you can do this, but really it's you and up to five members of your family. Unlike Apple Music, the family sharing feature of Apple News+ is part of the regular subscription price. There isn't a second, higher fee for sharing amongst your family.

Plus when you or they are about to be away from internet access, it's possible to download whole issues of any magazine in the collection and keep them on your iPad.

Although, deleting them again is a surprising problem. You can't. The issues are automatically removed 30 days later or purged when iOS needs the space for something. You can't change your mind and say you'd rather clear some space on that iPad manually.

You can work around this by exploiting how Apple News+ will delete them to save space if your storage is getting low, but still this is definitely a bad feature.

The bad

If you're having trouble deleting downloaded magazine issues on your iOS device, then at least you found something worth downloading first. With such a mass of material and such a range, it's extremely unlikely that there won't be anything you want to read -- but finding it is hard.

It's also buggy. At times, if you search for a magazine title, you may get just a topic page. That's a collection of news articles and it's typically what you'd see if a publisher doesn't want to put the entire issue onto the service. And yet if you search again, you can end up with that topic page plus the issues at the top.

Instead of searching, you could be methodical and check out the comprehensive Apple News+ catalog of magazines. Except this entire and complete Apple News+ catalog is not entire or complete. For no reason that we can fathom, some titles disappear from the catalog -- and it's not that they disappeared from the service.

You can browse the complete catalog of magazines on Apple News+, except that it isn't complete. Titles will vanish for no reason.
You can browse the complete catalog of magazines on Apple News+, except that it isn't complete. Titles will vanish for no reason.


That's annoying to us as readers, but it's got to be maddening for publishers.

Those publishers are still trying to find the best ways to offer their magazine's content, too. Which means there are two or three different ways of navigating through an issue. You do get used to the different ways, but you are also regularly tapping where you think the Next page button is.

Some publishers have taken to listing a kind of bare contents page with just headlines that you can tap to leap to articles. Others have gone for an aesthetic that shows every page in a thumbnail view. That's definitely much more visually appealing, but finding the article you want is far, far harder.

Left: Vogue's visual contents page. Right: National Geographic's more text-based one.
Left: Vogue's visual contents page. Right: National Geographic's more text-based one.


Some of this also contributes to how you're definitely better off reading Apple News+ on an iPad instead of the smaller screen of an iPhone.

You're also better off finishing reading that interesting article now. You can't bookmark an article to come back to. And even though Apple News+ does remember the recent magazines you read, it specifically remembers the magazines. Not the issue.

Over time, you find that you do build up a set of titles that you read a lot and you can have those all listed in the sidebar navigation. You just can't reorder that list and soon it's so long and so disorganized that you ignore it.

The ugly

All of this is frustrating, but it doesn't stop you getting sucked into enjoying reading the service. What does stop you are the crashes. Right after its initial launch, Apple News+ was prone to crashing and that appeared to be fixed. Yet we've had that reoccur and with no apparent underlying cause like an update to the app or to iOS.

In our experience, crashes are related specifically to Apple News+ itself, not the rest of the Apple News app. Consequently, we could carry on reading the app's Today recommendations and all of the non-subscription titles.

Only, while that meant we could keep on reading, it also underlined how much there is in the regular Apple News app -- and how Apple blurs the lines between the two.

It feels oddly as if Apple News+ is in a nascent, still-forming stage. When we count the irritations, it doesn't feel great at all -- yet when we then remember the hours we've spent engrossed in it, it does.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 4,672member
    So why are they calling it "Apples News+" if it is (mostly) just a magazine service?

    For myself, I have not looked any of the magazines much at all -- a few glances but I didn't find anything interesting.

    So far, for the most part, the only thing I've used it for has been the Wall Street Journal.   But even that is hockey.   For the most part I find a WSJ article I want to read on the subscription only WSJ.com site then search it up in Apple News+ -- since it usually isn't one of the articles that are posted.

    I am hoping that the news part of the service will be expanded and improved. 
  • Reply 2 of 21
    78Bandit78Bandit Posts: 232member
    "Being able to always get the latest issue is a big point in favor of Apple News+ because if you're interested in even one title, you're getting it faster than through the mail. If you're regularly interested in more than one, the $9.99 US or $12.99 Canadian subscription cost is a bargain."

    Maybe it depends on the magazine, but I regularly get offers for print magazines for $10 for the entire year.  Even at renewal time they are usually $14.99 or less.  Digital subscriptions are even less.  It looks like you are comparing the $9.99 monthly Apple News rate with a one-year subscription to print.  Generally you would need to be interested in 10 or more magazines for the overall yearly amounts to favor Apple News.
    edited May 2 GeorgeBMacmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 3 of 21
    MicDorseyMicDorsey Posts: 45member
    My local library offers a fabulous collection of magazines via RB Digital (formerly Zinio) for FREE. Yours probably does, too. The library also has ebooks, audio, and most notably Kanopy for movies. All free. As for "the truth," puhleeze! It's your analysis, which qualifies as opinion. Let's get off our high horse.
  • Reply 4 of 21
    FolioFolio Posts: 567member
    What I like about this-- I've used Readly, not AppleNews+ yet-- are not the ubiquitous dentist-office type magazines but the specialty ones, like Computer Music or Guitar Techniques or Biking. It reduces clutter and you can save and annotate pages. Great way to hone skills or inspire yourself or kids. It'd be great if there is a link to offerings based on hobbies, travel, sports, etc.
  • Reply 5 of 21
    The ugly truth is that the ugly is really ugly. I signed up for the Apple News+ free trial a few days after launch. My "free" trial was set to expire on May 1st, but decided to try to cancel it the night before expiry on April 30th. I followed the proper steps to cancel on my iPad Pro, but the cancellation button just would not work. I then called Apple and was instructed to try cancelling using my iPhone XS instead, but when I clicked on "confirm cancellation," it simply would not take. The Apple Agent then escalated my call to a Senior Advisor who assured me that the cancellation would go through by the expiry date. I had my doubts about this, but decided to trust the Advisor. The next day, May 1st, I was, indeed, charged $9.99 by iTunes. I then called Apple again and was told they would not reverse the charge due to their terms and conditions. I then resorted tp chatting with Apple Support, but they insisted the charge would not be reversed. It seems Apple has chosen to use draconian tactics to keep subscribers on the hook, which bodes ill for their new services business. Potential subscribers: consider yourselves warned.
  • Reply 6 of 21
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,469member
    The truth is Apple News+ suggests it includes New Yorker magazine, but it does not include the New Yorker cartoons, whereas Texture has had all content. For how many other periodicals is this kind of fake, teaser access the case for News+?

    I would swear I immediately unsubscribed from News+ after agreeing to the free trial, but I got notified of my renewal a month later! (Needless to say, I cancelled the subscription then and there.)
  • Reply 7 of 21
    bonobobbonobob Posts: 181member
    cpsro said:
    The truth is Apple News+ suggests it includes New Yorker magazine, but it does not include the New Yorker cartoons, whereas Texture has had all content. For how many other periodicals is this kind of fake, teaser access the case for News+?

    I would swear I immediately unsubscribed from News+ after agreeing to the free trial, but I got notified of my renewal a month later! (Needless to say, I cancelled the subscription then and there.)
     I’m not sure why the cartoons don’t show up for you, because they show up just fine for me. 
    lolliver
  • Reply 8 of 21
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,588member
    Although Texture existed before it was absorbed to make Apple News+, I think this article makes clear that the new amalgam is a 1.0 product and should be treated as such. In short, it will get better — particularly if you report the bugs.

    In hindsight I should have given the trial a try at the first opportunity, since I really enjoy Apple News. Now with a new job just heating up, I won’t have time to read magazines for a while, so I’m putting off the trial until later this summer. This article also encourages me that by the time I have time to give New+ a fair shot, it will reach v1.1 with some of the bugs and oddities ironed out.

    As for the fellow who complained with an inference that magazines aren’t “news” as in “newspapers” — um, you might want to buy a dictionary. There’s plenty of journalism in many of these magazines, and lots of in-depth reporting. While I too would like to see more “newspapers” added to the mix, there’s no shortage of “news magazines” there — try The Atlantic, the New Yorker, or (yes) Vanity Fair to go beyond the most obvious Time and Newsweek type mags.
    n2itivguylolliver
  • Reply 9 of 21
    jcs2305jcs2305 Posts: 758member
    MicDorsey said:
    My local library offers a fabulous collection of magazines via RB Digital (formerly Zinio) for FREE. Yours probably does, too. The library also has ebooks, audio, and most notably Kanopy for movies. All free. As for "the truth," puhleeze! It's your analysis, which qualifies as opinion. Let's get off our high horse.
    So reporting bugginess and crashing experienced while using the app isn't the truth, it's just an opinion? Did I miss something?


    All of this is frustrating, but it doesn't stop you getting sucked into enjoying reading the service. What does stop you are the crashes. Right after its initial launch, Apple News+ was prone to crashing and that appeared to be fixed. Yet we've had that reoccur and with no apparent underlying cause like an update to the app or to iOS.

    In our experience, crashes are related specifically to Apple News+ itself, not the rest of the Apple News app. Consequently, we could carry on reading the app's Today recommendations and all of the non-subscription titles.

    lolliver
  • Reply 10 of 21
    The real problem is that the News app is beyond an embarrassment - it's a disgrace to Apple. It has high utility but utterly miserable usability. For example:

    - It can't get scrolling right. Seriously? 10+ years after the iphone came out, and it can't tell between horizontal and vertical scrolling? Unlike every other app that exists? (Specifically, it'll confuse my vertical swipe to scroll the article with a horizontal one to switch articles, often enough to be a constant irritation.)

    - It violates the principle of least surprise, multiple times over, by capriciously moving in the article list (back to the top, at random times, when it loads new articles), rearranging articles (so you can't even go back to where you were in the list), and not returning to an article you're reading when you return to the news app from somewhere else.

    - Finding your history and saved articles, once easy, has become a hidden feature most people will never discover.

    Beyond that, there are other issues. For example, the "smarts" are intensely stupid. No, I do NOT want to see astrology articles in the astronomy section. Yes, I know why that happened. But this is 2019, not 2009, and it should do better.

    In a competitive market, this app would sink like a stone. Instead it has survived because it's Apple's. And now, some geniues has decided to use it for their magazine subscriptions, and it's being overloaded with more features and more bugs.

    All this could be fixed. Most of it wouldn't even be that hard. But it's been years, and they haven't bothered, so I'm not hopeful.
    chemengin
  • Reply 11 of 21
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,161member
    So why are they calling it "Apples News+" if it is (mostly) just a magazine service?

    For myself, I have not looked any of the magazines much at all -- a few glances but I didn't find anything interesting.

    So far, for the most part, the only thing I've used it for has been the Wall Street Journal.   But even that is hockey.   For the most part I find a WSJ article I want to read on the subscription only WSJ.com site then search it up in Apple News+ -- since it usually isn't one of the articles that are posted.

    I am hoping that the news part of the service will be expanded and improved. 
    There is an easier solution when you find a WSJ article on the website locked behind a paywall. This only works on an iPhone or iPad. When you are on the WSJ website in Safari, hit the share button on the top right, then click on open in News. You will be then be able to read the article. 
    GeorgeBMackruegdude
  • Reply 12 of 21
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 4,672member
    So why are they calling it "Apples News+" if it is (mostly) just a magazine service?

    For myself, I have not looked any of the magazines much at all -- a few glances but I didn't find anything interesting.

    So far, for the most part, the only thing I've used it for has been the Wall Street Journal.   But even that is hockey.   For the most part I find a WSJ article I want to read on the subscription only WSJ.com site then search it up in Apple News+ -- since it usually isn't one of the articles that are posted.

    I am hoping that the news part of the service will be expanded and improved. 
    There is an easier solution when you find a WSJ article on the website locked behind a paywall. This only works on an iPhone or iPad. When you are on the WSJ website in Safari, hit the share button on the top right, then click on open in News. You will be then be able to read the article. 
    That's a great tip -- thank you!
    Unfortunately my iPad is on the blink and I don't use it much anymore.   But that's one more reason to invest in a new one -- especially now that we have an updated Mini available.

    kruegdudeboltsfan17
  • Reply 13 of 21
    Johan42Johan42 Posts: 163member
    I’ve found every article from AN+ on the publishers’ website for free. Yeah...it’s a waste of money.
  • Reply 14 of 21
    gegorigegori Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    News + is a good start. I am enjoying it on my Mac more than on my iPhone, but I wish there was a way to better map the keyboard controls.  Using CMD+[ and CMD+] to go back and forth is stupid.  I wish I can use my arrow keys.  Trying to assign the keystroke on my Logitech MX Master didn't work so I reverted using the left scroll wheel to go between pages in a story.

    Also under the main screen where the news categories are listed, there seems to be no horizontal scroll bar so the remaining icons are chopped off.  Bad UI.

    When trying to feedback to Apple on their website, the News app is not even listed as an item for feedback.  Hopefully, Apple will continue to improve the app.

    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 15 of 21

    - It can't get scrolling right. Seriously? 10+ years after the iphone came out, and it can't tell between horizontal and vertical scrolling? Unlike every other app that exists? (Specifically, it'll confuse my vertical swipe to scroll the article with a horizontal one to switch articles, often enough to be a constant irritation.)
    I haven't observed this problem in Apple News+, which suggests, respectfully, that's it's possibly your swiping that's inaccurate. :)

    Since most apps scroll in only one direction, they're far more "forgiving" when it comes to the accuracy of our swipes. If Apple News+ is misinterpreting your swipes, your swipes are probably unintentionally diagonal—which is fine in (nearly) "every other app that exists," because typically there's only one, possible interpretation of your swipe. But in an app that scrolls in two directions, you may have to force yourself to recalibrate your swiping. I'm just sayin'… :)
    edited May 4
  • Reply 16 of 21
    Johan42 said:
    I’ve found every article from AN+ on the publishers’ website for free. Yeah...it’s a waste of money.
    You're missing the point.

    Of course you can find the articles elsewhere by visiting each publisher's web site, one at a time, and looking for an article. But are those articles from different publishers all in one place, presented beautifully? Do they typically feature animation? And for the publishers that charge access on their web sites, are you getting dozens (or hundreds) of magazines for one price? Does each of those publishers' web sites automatically download the latest issue to your device for you to read at your convenience?

    If Apple News+ isn't for you, that's fine. If convenience, presentation, and value (many titles for one price) don't appeal to you, that's fine. But if your belief that it's "a waste of money" is based primarily on your ability to search all over the web and find the same articles for free, you're missing the point.
    kruegdude
  • Reply 17 of 21
    Johan42Johan42 Posts: 163member
    Johan42 said:
    I’ve found every article from AN+ on the publishers’ website for free. Yeah...it’s a waste of money.
    You're missing the point.

    Of course you can find the articles elsewhere by visiting each publisher's web site, one at a time, and looking for an article. But are those articles from different publishers all in one place, presented beautifully? Do they typically feature animation? And for the publishers that charge access on their web sites, are you getting dozens (or hundreds) of magazines for one price? Does each of those publishers' web sites automatically download the latest issue to your device for you to read at your convenience?

    If Apple News+ isn't for you, that's fine. If convenience, presentation, and value (many titles for one price) don't appeal to you, that's fine. But if your belief that it's "a waste of money" is based primarily on your ability to search all over the web and find the same articles for free, you're missing the point.
    I read articles for the information, not the bells and whistles. And the paid articles are presented “beautifully” to me already without paying. All I have to do is search for that title and there it is...AN+ article, for free. Apple has enough mula. I’ll keep that 9.99 for a fat burger and a movie.
  • Reply 18 of 21
    kruegdudekruegdude Posts: 340member
    The ugly truth is that the ugly is really ugly. I signed up for the Apple News+ free trial a few days after launch. My "free" trial was set to expire on May 1st, but decided to try to cancel it the night before expiry on April 30th. I followed the proper steps to cancel on my iPad Pro, but the cancellation button just would not work. I then called Apple and was instructed to try cancelling using my iPhone XS instead, but when I clicked on "confirm cancellation," it simply would not take. The Apple Agent then escalated my call to a Senior Advisor who assured me that the cancellation would go through by the expiry date. I had my doubts about this, but decided to trust the Advisor. The next day, May 1st, I was, indeed, charged $9.99 by iTunes. I then called Apple again and was told they would not reverse the charge due to their terms and conditions. I then resorted tp chatting with Apple Support, but they insisted the charge would not be reversed. It seems Apple has chosen to use draconian tactics to keep subscribers on the hook, which bodes ill for their new services business. Potential subscribers: consider yourselves warned.
    Never has Apple ever acted in this manner with me. You might want to check the phone number of who you called because you’re describing a different company. 
  • Reply 19 of 21
    kruegdudekruegdude Posts: 340member
    Johan42 said:
    I’ve found every article from AN+ on the publishers’ website for free. Yeah...it’s a waste of money.
    Sometimes paying extra is about convenience. 
  • Reply 20 of 21
    kruegdudekruegdude Posts: 340member

    - It can't get scrolling right. Seriously? 10+ years after the iphone came out, and it can't tell between horizontal and vertical scrolling? Unlike every other app that exists? (Specifically, it'll confuse my vertical swipe to scroll the article with a horizontal one to switch articles, often enough to be a constant irritation.)
    I haven't observed this problem in Apple News+, which suggests, respectfully, that's it's possibly your swiping that's inaccurate. :)

    Since most apps scroll in only one direction, they're far more "forgiving" when it comes to the accuracy of our swipes. If Apple News+ is misinterpreting your swipes, your swipes are probably unintentionally diagonal—which is fine in (nearly) "every other app that exists," because typically there's only one, possible interpretation of your swipe. But in an app that scrolls in two directions, you may have to force yourself to recalibrate your swiping. I'm just sayin'… :)
    That was my thinking too and you stated it much better that I could have. 
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