It's hard to go wrong with Google News, either on your phone or a computer. Particularly with the recent update, the interface for this content aggregator is clean and intuitive to navigate, and your news sources are highly customizable. But the search giant has been facing increasing competition in news from Apple, Microsoft, Reuters, and others.
Let's take a look at the best alternatives to Google News in 2018.
1. AP News
Like Reuters News (see below), the free Associated Press News app for iOS and Android collects all of the stories written by its reporters around the world and presents them in a categorized feed. It might only be a single organization, but the AP has literally hundreds of bureaus around the world and is basically the CNN of newswire services. And as a wire service, it can sometimes produce stories before they're found anywhere else.
When you first open the app, you can select news curated for US app users, a Spanish-language version, and an international version. From there' you'll be presented with a Top News feed containing the latest featured stories.
If you tap the partially hidden hamburger menu in the upper left, you get options to edit the news categories or access the app settings. In the app settings, you can disable images from loading, which is handy for slower connections or for people dealing with tight mobile data caps. There's also a Quiet Time setting where you can disable app notifications for a few minutes or a few hours, on a set schedule.
The AP News app can also detect your location and create a local news feed, though in our case in San Francisco, the only source there was the San Jose Mercury News. Perhaps more interesting is the Oddities category, which collects off-kilter AP stories like "Thief in Mexico tries to steal hearse, with body inside" or "Left behind: Thieves raid Virginia store of right foot shoes." Fans of non-traditional stories might also want to check out the Good News section in the Microsoft News app as well (see below).
2. Apple News
Apple News is arguably Google News' closest competitor, and it's pre-installed on every iPhone and iPad the company sells (and it will finally be coming to MacOS this fall). The Apple News widget can be just one or two swipes away, no matter where you are in iOS, and it will send you a stream of interesting new stories all day, selected according to the publications and topics that you choose when you first set the app up.
Apple News is also free, but you'd never guess, given the level of visual polish. The app does a good job of balancing text and imagery to maintain high information density without overwhelming the user, both in portrait and landscape modes.
In addition to your personalized feed, there's also the Spotlight section featuring content curated by news editors working at Apple, highlighting the top stories from high-quality publications in an eye-pleasing format.
However, if you want to browse specific news topics, this can be more challenging, for two reasons. One, topic navigation is buried deeply within the interface, rather than being featured like it is in most other news apps. You have to tap Following, scroll past all of the publications that you've manually selected for inclusion in your feed, then scroll to the specific news category that you want to browse.
If you're a newshound like us, this can become a tedious process. Plus, when you tap a category, you are not guaranteed to get the latest stories. Sometimes swiping down from the top of the screen to refresh the category feed does nothing, and you're left with yesterday's news -- literally. It can take several hours for this feed to eventually sync to your device.
Alternatively, you can scroll through the For You feed until you hit the Technology section, but it's limited to just a few top stories.
Apple News on iOS also still lacks a dark theme, despite it being a popular request among iOS users. (The upcoming MacOS will have it.) On the bright side, the app itself is ad-free.
The free Flipboard news app for Android and iOS is the only rival on this list that also has a full-fledged website, and it requires minimal setup. You choose only three topics to start with, but you can view the others on the What's Your Passion tab, and there's everything from skateboarding to science fiction to Game of Thrones. To keep you from being overwhelmed by your choices, there's a search function at top that makes suggestions as you type.
In another departure, Flipboard's feeds aren't just a collection of headlines with photos. Instead, scrolling through the content will intersperse specific stories with introductory paragraphs. There are some ads in these feeds, but they are relatively low-key.
Flipboard is also a community of users as well as a news aggregator. Every item in the feed has a comment section where Flipboard users can discuss the story, reply to each others' comments, and vote comments up or down.
You can also tap the heart icon to tell Flipboard that you like a story, or you can tap the three-dot menu in the lower right and select "Show less like this." This menu also lets you view the article in a web browser, and there's an option to report content for intrusive ads, being off-topic, or other objections you might have.
Flipboard lacks a dark theme to make it easier to read at night, but it's otherwise a very good aggregator that gives Apple News and Google News a run for their money.
4. Microsoft News
This is a free refreshed app for Android and iOS that's formerly known as MSN News. Unlike Apple News, Microsoft News offers a dark theme, plus a list of topics at the top of the screen that you can navigate by swiping left and right. The app also features a "Good News" section highlighting positive stories like finding lost loved ones, pets being rescued, and strangers generally doing nice things for each other to make the world a better place to live in.
Microsoft News also features a News Around You section where you can optionally share your location with the app or give it a specific city that you want to get a customized feed for. It effectively becomes the digital version of your local paper, pulling in stories published on the websites of local news channels and regional publications.
You can not only get a consolidated feed from all of these sources but also can select specific sources from a menu at the top that you can slide left and right. Want content only from a broadcast network's regional affiliate? Or a business news site dedicated to the city? Those are options in this app.
Google News used to have a dedicated section for local news, but the new version embeds those stories into the main feed.
Unlike Apple News and Google News, the Microsoft News app embeds ads to help fund development. However, we found them relatively unobtrusive during our testing, and none of them are animated. They also only appear in the articles themselves, rather than in the app's various feeds.
The Nuzzel news app for Android and iOS leverages your personal social media network to populate a news feed with stories that your friends, family, and colleagues are sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. So while other apps might promise a "personalized" feed, Nuzzel is about as personal as it gets.
If you prefer not to share your social networks with the app, you can still get some mileage out of it, though. There's a curated feed of Top News featuring the headlines of the day, collected from high-quality sources like the Financial Times and the Columbia Journalism Review. Content is presented in a card-style feed, with a few sentences from the opening paragraph, the author's name, and a small thumbnail image from the story.
Below the story blurb is where things get more interesting. There you'll find a row of user icons of people on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook who have shared the story on their social network. If you haven't connected the Nuzzel app to your network accounts, then these will just be a procession of strangers.
But if you have, the people you've connected to on those networks will show up here if they shared that story. Plus, the app can automatically notify you when at least three friends or family members share a story, and you can set the threshold as high as 25. To keep this notification from becoming distracting, you can limit this notification to once per day, or let it appear up to 25 times a day. Or you can disable the notification altogether.
Of course, the people you know on these networks may not be aware of the Nuzzel app, so they won't know that you have a systematic way to track all the articles they share, or the ability to observe the entire group's reading habits. So while you gain an unusual way to synthesize the political and personal leanings of everyone you know, some users may find it voyeuristic.
Still, the way that Nuzzel's system populates your feed allows you to see some content that would otherwise be outside the boundaries of a traditional personalized feed. So if you want to wander off your beaten path of news sites and publications, Nuzzel has an interesting way to do that.
6. Reuters News
As a single news source, Reuters produces a relatively smaller amount of stories compared to the other news apps. However, it's also a news wire with an army of journalists and editors dedicated to getting a story published very quickly. Therefore, the Reuters News app may dig up something interesting before you see it elsewhere, sometimes hours in advance.
Like Microsoft News, this app for Android and iOS has advertisements and an optional dark mode. Of all the news apps we tested, this is the only one in the group whose ads were also sometimes animated, which you may find distracting.
However, the Reuters News app does have one feature we haven't encountered elsewhere: When you reach the bottom of a story, the app shows you a list of related news categories, and tapping them automatically adds them to your feed. If they've already been added, you'll see a check mark instead of a plus sign. Tapping the check removes that topic from your feed. In effect, this Related Feeds component can be an effective way to sculpt the stories that show up in the app.
Unlike most other news aggregators, the Reuters app also has a dedicated video section, where you can view short clips produced by Reuters itself. This can be handy for getting your news hands-free, and it includes closed captions so that you can view without disturbing other people nearby.
Every story that appears in the app has two viewing modes: Web and Smart. The Smart mode is like reading modes in a desktop browser: It cuts out everything around the text of the article, which creates a cleaner presentation that may be easier to read.
The app defaults to the Web view, however, and there is no option to change this. On the bright side, you don't have to wait until Web mode has finished loading to switch to Smart Mode.
You can navigate news categories via a series of tabs along the top of the screen, and if you head over to the Discover tab, you can add additional tabs that are specific to a single publication.
This Discover tab features newly added publications and topics, followed by a Recommended section, which is followed by a ranked Trending section. From there, your choices are separated into regular news categories like Entertainment, Sports, and Technology. Tapping on each source takes you to a page with a short description of the source and a selection of recent stories.
With a publication able to get its own tab in the app, you have a partly modular system that we haven't seen used elsewhere very much. Its competition banks largely on topic-based navigation instead, while you can use Smart News effectively like a miniature web browser dedicated to news content.
The app makes money from display ads, but we didn't find them distracting during our testing.
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