Apple News has been available in the US since iOS 9 was launched on September 16th, but it has only just come to UK users because of the recent iOS 9.1 update. In the meantime Google Play Newsstand has been available. Which is best?

In fact, Google’s news app has been around for a long time and it is a mature app that has seen many tweaks and updates, whereas Apple News is brand new. It is good, but you know what they say about version 1 of anything. (Wait till version 2!)

It is unusual for an Apple app to look dull and unexciting, but Apple News does. In a complete reversal of trend, Google has the smart app with the great design and Apple has the plain one. It is functional, but a bit boring.

The home screen of the Play Newsstand app is colourful and looks really nice. The large graphic at the top is eye-catching, its content reflects the news stories, and it is colour coded. As you scroll down the news feed it slides out of the way. Many news stories have a large full width image that is eye catching and the news feed looks really nice. There are text-only stories, but what you notice are the images. It is a beautiful app to look at.

The Apple app in contrast, is less visually exciting. The top of the app is plain and the text heading is For You, which is both dull and odd. The news snippets often contain images, but they are small and on the right of the text, and they have less impact than Google’s extra large ones. Sometimes, by chance, you get three or four text-only news links and then the screen is exceedingly dull. Visually Google’s news app is better.

Google screen first, Apple screen second

 Google Play Newsstand  Apple News

Another major difference between the two apps is the organisation of content. Google groups stories by subject or category on tabs and there are highlights, news, business, entertainment, sports and more. Navigating from one category to another is a simple sideways swipe across the screen, or you can tap the category heading.

Google screen first, Apple screen second

Google Play Newsstand  Apple News

Apple News lists everything in one news feed, which is a bit reminiscent of a Twitter feed, and there is a long list of stories. When you first run the app and select news sources, there are categories that can be selected. It is not obvious, but the plain coloured tiles with Business, Gadgets, Health and other titles, are subject categories.

The second icon at the bottom of the screen is used to access your favourites, which are tiles showing the news sources and categories you selected. Tap a category tile and news stories on that subject are displayed. It enables you to focus on a subject, but the tiles are mixed up with news sources and there are a lot of them.

Whereas Google just has a Technology category, Apple has Technology, Software, Gadgets, Smartphones, Mobile Computers and several more. It is better because you can filter news stories better, but the categories are less easy to select. One swipe changes news category in Google’s app, but with Apple’s you have to tap, scroll, find the right tile, then tap again. It takes more effort.

Google screen first, Apple screen second

 Google Play Newsstand  Apple News

The best news app

It is difficult deciding which app is best because Google Play Newsstand looks so good, the content is easy to access and the news sources are interesting. Apple News doesn’t look as good and it is harder to navigate, but it has a great selection of news sources and you can focus on subjects better.

The news feed in Apple News has a US bias. This is great if you live in the US, but some of the stories are of no interest to me here in the UK. Google Play Newsstand has more UK and European content to grab my attention. I can get local news stories, but I have to work a bit harder in Apple News, for example, going tin the favourites and selecting a UK news source like BBC News. Apple News also has more news stories and Google shows a limited number of items in each category. Occasionally I read the bottom of a category and have read every story, well, every story that interests me.

With a few updates to improve the look, navigation and localisation, Apple News could be really good. For now, it is merely OK. I'll be keeping both apps.