Google introduced News after the 9/11 attack. Amit Singhal, one of the key employees at Google, realized that there is no way to track news related to the unfortunate event in real time. Google News has come a long way since then and now tracks thousands of news sites, but it is not the only one.
Microsoft released its news app in 2018, and since then has been gaining momentum. The question is, how is it any better than Google News?
Frankly, I am impressed with the way Microsoft has been able to turn the tables in recent years. Microsoft News looks promising, but we need to dig deeper than just headlines, as they can be deceptive.
Let’s see how Microsoft News is different than Google News and whether you should make the switch.
1. UI and Experience
Most of us have a Google account which you can use to access Google News app. Likewise, you will need a Microsoft account to access and read Microsoft News, but it is not mandatory, and doesn’t seem to affect the experience. Both apps have adopted a material design with dark themes in place.
Google News has a bottom bar design with four self-explanatory tabs. The For you tab will show major headlines and content based on your recent searches and may change with continued app usage.
Microsoft News follows suit and also features a top bar. At the bottom, you will find the search button and Map icon. The latter will show news from your city while the homepage will cover the country and the world. At the top, you will find news categories.
In Google News, search is placed at the top while the news categories can be found under the Headlines tab.
I like the weather report on Google News, which takes little space but seems like a thoughtful addition.
Note: The UI and experience remain the same for both apps on Android and iOS. I will be sharing screenshots from both. The ones with the dark mode enabled are from Android, and the others are from iOS.
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2. Consuming News
The For you tab in Google News will show you stories based on your preferred location, recent searches, and an algorithm that only Google knows how it works. Scroll a little, and you will see a card for live matches like Cricket and other current events.
Occasionally, you will see a rectangular stack icon below some news stories. That means Full Coverage. Tapping on the same will reveal headlines and links to all the sites that have covered this story in detail. Then there is the Timeline which will present all the stories date-wise, so you know what happened and when. Suitable for reading opinions and doing in-depth research.
Microsoft News follows suit and will display customized news and stories under the My News tab. No full coverage option here yet. No weather forecasts either. You can quickly change news categories from the My Interest tab, and the order is rearrangable from the Search tab.
When you open a story in Google News, the dark mode simply disappears. Why? Not sure but I do see ads, and when they are blocked using my ad blocker, I see empty an ad slot. That ruins the reading experience for me.
Microsoft News does it a lot better. For one, the UI experience remains constant as you can see the dark mode in all its glory, even when you are reading news. Two, there are no ads and no empty ad slot either. And three, there is an option to change font size and switch dark mode on/off.
You are looking at the same article feed from both Google News and Microsoft News in the above screenshot.
3. Customizing Sources
Google News allows you to add places and categories of interest from the Favorites tab. Just tap on the ‘+’ icon to search for them.
You will notice that Google suggests sources of content too. You can subscribe to your favorite blogs and news sites in no time. In Microsoft News, when I search for Engadget, I also see news from other sources and no way to subscribe to individual blogs. That’s a bummer. You can however subscribe to the topic this way using the ‘+’ icon.
Google News makes it a lot easy and fun to find and add new sources of content. After all, Google relies on advertising for business, and helping people discover new sources makes a lot of sense for them. Under the Newsstand, you will find Featured and Popular tabs where you will discover news sites and blogs based on what’s hot, categories, and current trends like FIFA Women’s World Cup.
You can also subscribe to magazines, but not all are free, so you will have to subscribe using your Play Store account.
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4. Other Options
We saw how Microsoft News delivers a UI that is consistent across the app and beyond, even when you are reading a news story. Well, in the settings, there is a Layout option where you can change the way stories are displayed on your screen. Now you can view more stories on the same screen using Compact or even Text-only view.
Both Google News and Microsoft News allow users to save stories they like. But in Google News, you can ask the app to show more similar content in the future by using the ‘like’ button.
Finally, Google News has a cool feature where you can download all the stories from a particular topic automatically for offline reading.
Buy the Rumor, Sell the News
Here is what I think. Google News is better when it comes to managing sources and finding content or news stories. You can control and add topics, blogs, and magazines. The Full Coverage and Timeline feature are beneficial.
Microsoft News offers a better reading experience. The dark mode is consistent, it blocks ads effectively, and you can change the layout or even font size.
Hopefully we get an app that did all of that in a single interface, but there is no such thing as the perfect app.
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