Mobile devices have become the go-to source for reading the latest news headlines and staying informed. With smartphones and tablets now accessible virtually everywhere, people can keep up with current events at anytime from anywhere. This has led to a proliferation of news and media apps catering to users who want bite-sized digests of top stories. But with hundreds of news apps flooding the market, how do you determine which one best fits your news consumption habits?
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There is a wide range of free and paid news apps that use advanced formatting and personalization technology to deliver a customized news experience straight to users’ mobile devices. Below we compare some of the most popular mobile news apps by examining key features and content options.
- Preloaded on iOS devices
- Aggregates articles from top news sources and magazines
- Allows users to follow favorite publishers, topics, channels
- Incorporates machine learning to display stories you’re likely to read
- Ad-supported; all articles live within the Apple News app
- Aggregates news articles based on your interests
- Highly visual, magazine-style interface
- Follow topics, publications, and people
- Social network allows you to see stories friends are reading
- Ad-supported; includes sponsored content
- Available as mobile app or browser-based
- Newsstand divided into sections including Headlines, Local, Business
- “For You” feed displays top stories based on interests
- Allows you to select preferred news sources
- News stories curated by both algorithms and editorial teams
- Browse global headlines or by sections like politics, tech, science
- Local news section displays headlines from over 1,000 local sources
- Encourages reading diverse perspectives across political spectrum
- RSS feed reader allowing you to subscribe to publications
- Minimalist, text-focused interface
- Read full articles in the web view instead of previews
- Categorize content into topics and subtopics
- Sync feeds across devices
- Free version has ads; pro version is ad-free
This table provides an overview of some of the distinguishing features of each news app:
|Follow topics, channels, publishers
|Curated feeds based on your interests
|Customizable sections and news sources
|Local news section
|User-generated feeds from publications
|Magazine-like, highly visual
|Text and image focused
|Text/link focused, sync across devices
|Article previews and snippets
|Previews and full articles
|Article previews and snippets
|Previews and full articles
|Full articles in web view
|Sponsored brand content
|Standard banner/text ads
|Targeted banner/text ads
|Free version has ads
|iOS devices only
|iOS, Android, web
|iOS, Android, web
|iOS, Android, web
Beyond these broader categories, there are some key differences between mobile news apps that are worth highlighting as you determine which option may be the best fit.
The main differentiator between apps like SmartNews, Flipboard and Apple News versus something like Feedly is the content curation method. The former group uses a combination of algorithms and human editorial teams to display stories that align with your demonstrated interests as a reader.
Feedly, on the other hand, takes more of an RSS-reader approach allowing you maximum control through self-generated feeds from your choice of leading publications. So while Feedly provides more customization over your sources, the others surface stories you may have otherwise missed based on your reading behavior.
There are also some notable differences in how each app handles advertising. Most of the news aggregators profiled above feature standard banner or text ads similar to what you find on news websites. However a few, like Apple News and Flipboard, incorporate sponsored content into the main feed which blurs the line between article and advertisement.
Flipboard also introduced promoted topics and sections that align brands with certain news coverage areas. So if you prefer a clear separation between article and ad, Feedly and Google News may be better picks. However if some sponsored content doesn’t bother you, Apple News and Flipboard provide beautiful reading experiences.
Another consideration is whether you prefer to do all your reading within a mobile app, or you like having a web-based option to sync across devices. Apple News and Flipboard keep all content tightly contained within their app ecosystems. However Google News and Feedly allow web-based access in addition to mobile apps.
Google News’ website closely mimics the mobile interface, while Feedly’s provides a more visually engaging experience online. So if having a consistent experience across your phone, tablet and desktop is a priority, Google News or Feedly may be preferable.
Although Apple News and Flipboard only live within their apps, some users enjoy the more immersive, distraction-free reading this provides.
With an understanding of the landscape of top news mobile apps, how do you determine which one is right for your needs? It’s helpful to reflect on your news consumption habits and priorities to decide which features matter most.
Here are some key questions to ask yourself when evaluating mobile news apps:
- When and why do I access the news via my mobile device? – If you frequently check headlines during short gaps in your day like commute times or waiting in line, brevity and personalization may be key. If you prefer longer, more meditative reads, an immersive app like Flipboard may be preferable over something text-heavy.
- How much control vs curation do I want over my news feed? – If you highly value having total control over your news sources, Feedly is likely the best pick. But if you want an editorial team or algorithms to surface interesting stories you may have otherwise missed, SmartNews or Apple News aggregators are great.
- What is my preferred reading format – snippet previews or full articles? Apps like Apple News and Google News mostly feature snippet previews of stories, while Flipboard and SmartNews incorporate full articles. So consider whether you prefer to just quickly scan headlines or dive deeper into certain stories.
- How distracted do I want to be while reading news? If you find ads highly distracting, Feedly offers an ad-free Pro subscription. Apple News and Flipboard incorporate sponsored content directly into feeds, so if you prefer your articles clearly separated from promotions, be cautious of those.
Once you narrow down one or two apps that seem to align with your preferences, test them out for a few days. Pay attention to which features you utilize most and if you find yourself looking forward to your reading time. The mobile news app that becomes part of your daily routine is likely the right match. And as news preferences evolve over time, you can always switch between apps or use multiple to serve different purposes.
Regardless of which mobile news app you settle into, keep these tips in mind to get the most out of reading the news on your smartphone or tablet:
- Enable notifications from news apps and publish subscriptions so you stay on topics of interest. But beware of information overload!
- Designate specific times to catch up on news rather than aimlessly scrolling and getting distracted.
- Switch to browser-based reading when you have time for longer, more in-depth analysis. The screen space constraints mobile apps can become tiresome.
- Adjust text size for comfortable reading in mobile views.
- Follow journalists and thought leaders in addition to publications so you get commentary instead of just headlines.
- Sync your app feeds and preferences across mobile and desktop devices for consistency.
- Favor reputable publications known for editorial standards over tabloid news and unvetted citizen reporting in blog form which spread misinformation.
- Seek out diverse perspectives – don’t just read viewpoints you already agree with. Some apps like SmartNews intentionally incorporate a wide spectrum.
- Consider paid subscription options without ads to eliminate disruptive promotions. Many publications offer deals for mobile access.
- Download news apps when traveling internationally so you can access localized headlines and translate stories.
|Apple device owners looking for conveniently preloaded news app with visually engaging interface and curated feeds.
|Users wanting a highly visual, magazine-style reading experience with emphasis on longform stories over headlines.
|Readers desiring flexibility to customize news feeds by topics and sources.
|People seeking exposure to diverse perspectives and locally relevant stories to supplement national coverage.
|Machine learning algorithms provide personalized feed based on reading behavior, also allows you to follow favorite topics, publications, and journalists.
|The Flipboard team hand-curates headline and longform news stories to match reader interests.
|Mix of algorithmic recommendations based on past reading activity plus customizable selections of publications and topics.
|Blend of machine learning algorithms recommending stories based on interests, plus editorial teams grouping relevant stories. Provides local news feeds.
|Beautiful interface provides an immersive, distraction-free reading environment enabling deep focus. Stories load quickly.
|The highly visual design with cards and magazines makes reading feel like flipping through a newsstand. Requires patience for stories to load.
|Straightforward, text-heavy interface allows for quick skimming of headlines and brief snippets. Articles open out to full web view.
|Basic list-based interface prioritizes function over form. Quickly skim headlines or dive into full pieces.
|Can download up to 200 stories over Wifi for offline reading.
|Allows offline reading after syncing content.
|Limited offline functionality – can only access previously opened stories without internet connection.
|Does not offer offline viewing capability.
|Only available preloaded on Apple iOS devices including iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.
|Offered on both iOS and Android mobile platforms, plus accessible via web browser.
|Available across iPhone, Android devices, tablets and laptop/desktop web browsers. Native app or browser-based access.
|iOS and Android apps plus has a web portal for browser-based access.
|Incorporates sponsored content directly into the main news feed along with banner ads. Brand stories are marked “sponsored”.
|Promoted topics and sections blend sponsored content in with curated news headlines and stories.
|Site utilizes traditional web banner ads and text ads clearly distinguished from news content.
|Targeted banner and text ads are displayed separately from news stories themselves.
|Setup and customization is straightforward for Apple users already logged into device. News+ paid subscription provides access to additional newspapers and magazines.
|Emphasis is on an immersive, magazine-like reading experience. The free version contains ads while Flipboard Premium is ad-free.
|Interchangeable experience between browser-based and mobile app reading. Google distrust may deter some users.
|Curated local news feeds help users stay informed about happenings in specific regions. Particularly well-suited for local crime reports.
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Frequently Asked Questions About News Mobile Apps
Which mobile news app is the most customizable?
Of the major news aggregation apps, Feedly provides users with the most control and customization over their news feeds. It takes more of an RSS-reader approach, allowing you to individually select publications to pull articles from based on your interests. This creates the maximum personalization, but requires more effort upfront to set up than an algorithm-based app like SmartNews or Apple News.
Do I still have paywalls if I access news subscriptions through an app instead of a browser?
In most cases you can still run into paywalls when accessing sites like New York Times or Washington Post via news apps instead of directly through a browser. However some apps like Apple News provide bundled access to select subscription-based publications like the Wall Street Journal as part of their paid News+ offering. Check each app’s details to confirm if paid subscriptions are required for any included publications you want to read.
Which news app is least biased? Which has the most balanced perspectives?
Determining whether bias exists in news apps is tricky since their content consists predominantly of articles pulled from external publications. However SmartNews is intentional about balancing perspectives and showing stories outside readers’ existing filters and biases. Their “News From All Sides” section includes a range of political viewpoints for major headlines. Feedly also allows maximum customization to add your preferred mix of news sources spanning the ideological spectrum.
Can I access local news on national news apps like Apple News or Google News?
Yes, most major news apps like Apple News, Google News, and SmartNews have dedicated local news sections to supplement their national coverage. These utilize your device’s location services to spotlight stories specific to your town or region. For Apple News and Google News, local news stories comprise a minor share of overall coverage, while SmartNews dedicates an entire tab to local headlines including crime reports. So if hyperlocal updates are a priority, SmartNews would provide the most robust options.
How many articles are available for offline viewing across news apps?
Offline viewing functionality varies widely across mobile news apps. Apple News offers the most generous allowance for saving stories offline – up to 200 articles can be downloaded over wifi for offline access later. Flipboard also enables offline reading capabilities after syncing selected content. Google News and SmartNews have very limited offline functionality however, typically only letting you access previously opened stories without an internet connections. So Apple News is the best bet for offline news reading during flights, subway commutes or other situations without steady connectivity.