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Google News has replaced Google Play Newsstand on iOS, directly competing with Apple News. Both services have their clear benefits, but which one wins out?
At their core, both apps are attempting to do the same thing, provide users with personalized news to get them to read longer and come back for more. They approach the same goals with slightly different ideologies that have long separated Apple and Google.
Upon first launching Apple News, you are asked to make a variety of choices including the topics you are interested, and sources that you enjoy reading. This largely makes up what recommendations Apple News presents.
Comparatively, Google uses the data it already has on you to populate your news feed as soon as you launch the app and sign in. Actions that can affect these predictions include searching topics in the Google search bar or reading stories in Chrome.
Apple does not collect nearly the same level of data that Google does, which can lead to Apple News to be a bit less personalized out of the box. Google, using its massive amounts of data alongside artificial intelligence and machine learning, leads to a bit of a better experience as soon as you launch the app.
Both apps have similar tabs along the bottom for navigation, with each taking you to the personalized For You section when you launch.
Apple News also has Spotlight, Following, Search and Saved tabs. Spotlight is a collection of highlighted articles of the day as chosen by Apple's human editors.
Following, is where users can find more channels, topics, and stories to help personalize their feeds. Search and Saved are fairly straight-forward in their functions.
Google News has Headlines, Favorites, and Newsstand alongside the previously mentioned For You section. Headlines seems a bit similar to Apple's Spotlight tab, but is a bit more robust, pulling a variety of stories in many different categories. Favorites, akin to Apple's Following tab, houses all of the topics, sources, locations a user chooses. It is also where saved searches and saves stories live, instead of within their own tab.
Newsstand, Google News's last tab, is where all different publications live, including those that use a paywall or require a subscription.
Between the two
Among the things we preferred about Google News, was its Full Coverage feature. The app takes a story topic and presents several different takes on it in forms of swipe-able cards. Top coverage is first available from different sources, then a series of Tweets on the topic, followed by a timeline of events, a few opinion pieces, analysis articles, and then all coverage from several different viewpoints.
This all helps users develop their own opinions on a topic, rather than have their preexisting opinion reinforced by only being exposed to outlets they've chosen to follow.
Google News, like Apple News, should get even better over time as Google amasses additional data on you. It already does a great job in presenting articles you may want to read. Refining the data by highlighting articles and topics you like and don't like will benefit AI and ML systems that power recommendations.
This amount of data pre-collected is disturbing, though. As soon as we logged into the app, the recommended topics were a collection of recent topics we had been searching on Google recently.
We're also not excited about the presentation on Google News. Articles look very similar to the AMP articles that are available online, which basically makes them feel like mini web pages. They feel a bit out of place, and not nearly as integrated as Apple News articles do.
Apple News as an app feels much more polished, especially while reading articles that have been optimized for Apple News. Images and text can "wipe" in, images are displayed much more cleanly and can go full screen, all leading to a better user experience. We also appreciate the human-touch brought to Apple News through their team of human editors that help pick and choose which stories to feature in the spotlight. Apple has also been diligently fighting for more high-profile exclusives that you won't see in Google News.
But, with Apple's lack of personalized data collection, its predictive capabilities are definitely lacking at least at start. Much more user input over time is required to help Apple News decide what to present any given reader, and at times it can feel like not enough new sources are presented.