App

Whether you want to compare sources or double down on publications you trust, these are the apps for you

When you want to find out what’s going on in the world, Apple wants you to head to Apple News. The app, preinstalled on every iPhone and iPad, has you define the kinds of stories you’re into, and then attempts to serve up what’s relevant to your interests.

As you’d expect from Apple, its news app is sleek, and looks pretty great – even if it lacks settings to make any major adjustments to things like typography and layout. There’s also a paid tier – Apple News+. For $10/£10 every month, this grants access to a slew of leading magazines and newspapers – all from within the one app.

You really have nothing to lose from at least trying out Apple News – and the one-month free trial of Apple News+. However, there are plenty of other news apps out there. Our selection of alternatives compete with Apple’s app; but each one has been chosen on the basis of offering you something specific that might align better with how you want to discover, track, stash, and read news.

Google News – best for comparing sources

Free • v5.16 • 132.5 MB • By Google LLC

There’s a stark minimalism at the heart of Google News that feels like you’re cutting through the cruft. Devoid of the weighty headings and chunky layouts Apple News prefers, Google’s front page gives you a briefing: the current weather conditions, and five stories it thinks you’ll like.

Of course, you can then start scrolling and exploring further. The For You tab offers an endless feed of news that’s increasingly tailored to you, the more you use the app. Under Headlines, you can browse the news by location and topic. And under Favorites and Newsstand, you get the option to define sources you’d like fast access to.

Arguably, though, the really big plus of Google News is giving you the means to free yourself from a news bubble. Most headlines have a full coverage button. Press it and you can see how the story was covered by different sources. Whether you’re delving into politics, sport, or even coverage of the latest Apple event, this gives you a shot at balance in a world where sources increasingly double down on a specific viewpoint. The app also goes beyond straight news, providing links to analysis pieces, tweets, and a comprehensive ‘all coverage’ scrolling feed.

Of course, you might quite like a bubble – or at least prefer to keep specific publications away from your eyes. Google News can be trained – simply tap the  button by a news article, and you can opt to hide all stories from that particular publication. Should you later relent, hidden sources can be turned back on in the app’s settings, which also provides an opt-in daily briefing for your email inbox.

The button has further tricks, too – ‘save for later’ and share buttons, and quick access to other stories from that particular source. In all, this one feels efficient and sleek in a manner Apple’s app can’t quite compete with; but it’s those multi-source pages that really make it a winner.

Google News

Reeder 4 – best for never missing a headline

$5/£5 • v4.2.1 • 22.7 MB • By Silvio Rizzi

Much of the time, news is something to be browsed. In the same way you’d flick through a newspaper, you browse news apps. When something catches your eye, you read it. Easy. With certain sources, though, you don’t want to miss a thing, and that’s where Reeder 4 comes in.

Rather than outlining your preferences regarding news topics, Reeder instead invites you to subscribe to publication feeds. The app can self-host your subscriptions, but we recommend using the app with a free Feedly account, because your subscriptions can then be accessed online and using other feed readers as well. As for the feeds themselves, you can sign up to anything from the world’s biggest newspapers to niche blogs. Your feeds can be organized into groups, or browsed as one, enabling you to quickly blaze through headlines.

When reading articles, extraneous padding is stripped away. What you’re left with is the images and text, the latter of which can be customized – for example, to adjust the background color or text size. When feeds only offer a synopsis and expect you to visit their website for more, the Reader View button (in the toolbar – it resembles a few lines of text) can usually force-load the rest of the article, provided you’re online. Should you find yourself too often skimming the news and not taking anything in, a Bionic Reading mode forces you to slow down, focus, and be more fully aware of what you’re reading.

This is the app you need if you’re sick of algorithms deciding what you should read. When it comes to traditionally important news (rather than more niche fare), it’s probably best combined with the likes of Apple News or Google News, so you don’t end up fully ensconced in a bubble; but when you know you’ll want to read pretty much everything from a particular set of sources, Reeder 4 is ideal.

Reeder 4

Flipboard – best for combining sources

Free • v4.2.60 • 119.7 MB • By Flipboard Inc.

There’s a lot of crossover between Flipboard and Apple News, to the point it might seem choosing between them is a question of aesthetic preferences. Getting started with Flipboard is all about choosing things you’re interested in, and – just like Apple News – Flipboard serves up relevant stories. Rather than scrolling, however, Flipboard has you ‘flip’ between feed pages; and instead of offering a kind of unified article design, Flipboard tends to send you to a source’s mobile website.

There are some concrete benefits in using Flipboard over Apple News. One is that it’s cross platform, making it a smart choice if you use a combination of Apple and Android devices; otherwise, you effectively limit your news intake to whatever hardware you have that runs Apple News. Arguably a bigger reason to consider Flipboard, though, is its ability to create custom magazines from any sources. You can fashion multiple magazines that you keep private or share. Each of them can compile articles from major publishers, and a range of topics. But also, Flipboard lets you drill down into blogs and social feeds.

This mix of sources creates virtual publications that feel like a halfway house between Apple News and Reeder 4. You get the visual pizzazz and algorithmic side of Apple News, but are also able to include specific sources Apple’s app may ignore entirely. It’s a good compromise for a particular kind of reader, not least given that you can also pin any magazine you make to Flipboard’s Home screen, for easy access – or share it with the world, if you feel the need.

Flipboard

Pocket – best for saving news for later

Free • v7.12 • 160.4 MB • By Read It Later, Inc

Our final choice isn’t so much about news discovery as rediscovery. Pocket is a place where you can save stories for later, when you have time to deal with them properly. Of course, other apps (including all of the ones covered elsewhere in this round-up) offer similar functionality. However, if you end up using multiple apps, you run the risk of stashing articles for later in several different places.

Pocket gets around this problem by providing you with a simple central repository. Articles can be saved to it from the Share sheet, and are then downloaded whenever you open the app. For the most part, what you share will be readable offline, in-app, with a minimal and streamlined layout that eradicates cruft. Tap the headphones button and Pocket goes even further, freeing your eyes from reading by instantly transforming your playlist into a kind of podcast. It sounds a bit like the news being read by a robot, but it’s useful when you’re driving or making dinner.

There is a Discovery tab, but that’s mostly a place for long-reads and curiosities. While this article was being written, this section of Pocket included a New York Magazine piece on emoji, The Verge’s secret rules of the internet, and a Nautilus article that asked whether you can die of a broken heart. Interesting stuff, but not really news – at least in any traditional sense.

When it comes to news, then, Pocket is mostly about what you put into it – but that’s the point. This isn’t the app where your iPhone or iPad news starts – but it’s a great place to stash stories you can’t consume during the day, which can await those spare moments when you’ve a chance to more fully focus on them.

Pocket