- Download Microsoft News for iOS here and Android here
- It's a rebrand of the MSN News app
- It offers an optional dark theme for reading at night
- The app can be optimized for your location
Microsoft announced the relaunch on Wednesday of its MSN News app as "Microsoft News" for iOS, Android, Windows 10, and the web--adding personalized feeds, an optional night mode, location-based stories, and continuous reading.
Like Apple News and Google News, Microsoft News is an aggregator -- it collects stories from over a thousand publishers around the globe (including our sister sites CNET and ZDNet), and presents them to you in a feed that you can scroll through endlessly. The app makes money via fairly unobtrusive display ads.
The company claims "a network of web and app experiences that now reaches nearly half a billion people" each month, which includes MSN.com, the built-in Windows 10 news app, new tabs in the Microsoft Edge web browser, and the their establish MSN News app audience. So an overhaul of this rebranded mobile news app is an important piece of that puzzle.
For reference, Facebook claims well over 2 billion monthly active users. So while Microsoft isn't be the king of this particular hill, it's still getting in front of a lot of eyeballs. In fact, it claims that it's generated $600 million for news publishers over the last four years. However, with Google News dominating on Android and on the web, and Apple News always just a tap away on iOS, Microsoft still faces an uphill battle for our attention span among the rapidly-growing mobile audience.
Its two competitors also don't put ads within their apps, though they may link to news sites that run their own ads. When browsing through the stories in the app, we noticed that the ads appearing there were different than the ones that appear on the websites where the content originally came from. We inquired with Microsoft about this, but they not immediately respond.
Like Apple News, the Microsoft News app starts you off by asking you to select your desired news categories. A few like "Top Stories" and "Opinion" are pre-checked. We did not uncover a way to choose specific publications, however, nor a way to filter out undesirable ones. On the other hand, you can tell it to provide some news based on your location. Google News does this as well -- and you can't turn it off.
With the Microsoft News app, the feature is disabled by default, and enabling it triggers a prompt from the operating system, asking you to confirm that you're granting permission. These days, mindfulness about one's digital privacy is a welcome feature.
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Unlike Google News, you can also ask it to provide regional stories from nearly anywhere in the world. So if you're homesick or traveling, the Microsoft News app may be a better bet, although not being able to filter out specific sources is pretty hard to pass up in an age of clickbait and volatile politics.
- Variety and competition are always welcome, so we're all for more free news apps created by reputable developers -- and the dark mode is something that Apple News still lacks despite all of the justifiable complaints.
- With no way to approve or block specific news sources, you may end up looking elsewhere for a greater degree of control over your feed than you get with Microsoft News.
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- Microsoft News aims to take on Apple News and Google News (CNET)
- Build 2018: Microsoft embraces Android and iOS, extends Timeline feature (ZDNet)
- Microsoft: Here's our 4 step plan for getting rid of passwords forever (TechRepublic)
- Meet Microsoft News: A new way to stay informed across the Web, Windows 10, iOS and Android (Windows.com)