Thursday, 10 March 2016

Windows 10 System Apps Review: News

Note: This page is a review which forms part of the post Windows 10 System Apps Review

What’s this app for?

For all the latest news from around the world there's this app, which provides a textual, pictorial and video portal to digest and view everything and anything happening globally.

Does it do the job it was primarily designed for?

Yes … somewhat. No matter how many times I load up this app and browse about, I still find myself shutting it down fairly soon after and loading up alternative well-known news websites. Why? Well, let’s have a look through what this app offers.

Primarily there are four sections to this app; there’s “My News”, “Interests”, “Local” and “Videos”. The former is undoubtedly supposed to be the main loading page to launch people head first into all the news. Along the top of this section are clickable menus to filter the newsfeed to either the default topics or those you’ve added via the “interests” menu option. Content to this app comes from a large variety of news sources such as Sky News, Guardian & Reutors. There’s no option to customise where the app is pulling material from, and here in starts the first issue. No matter what topic you are looking at, it just looks like a mess. It's as if you pulled a newspaper through the hedge backwards. There’s undoubtedly lots of news items in this app and all largely from quality sources, but it’s hard to see it as anything joined up; instead it looks more like the equivalent of 52 playing cards having been thrown up in the air and landed on the floor all mixed up. The news app is tailored for courtesy glancing rather than anything longer and more focussed. At least when you open an article they are all laid out neatly and similarly to each other. Undoubtedly the articles are using a template as the actual text and layout flows quite nicely. You will however have to face the obligatory advertisement either along the very top horizontal or within the article, but there are much worse news sites for obtrusive adverts than this app.

The “Interests” section is where you get to customise the app’s news content in terms of its subject matter rather than where it’s sourced from. As well as having numerous topics already available for you to select from the normal genres of News, Entertainment, Sport, Lifestyle, Health, Money, you can also pick from trending topics, video and even search for your own to add to the list. Seems to work quite nicely and comprehensively. I made two random interest topics in “Jenson Button” and “Samsung S6”; both pulling up relevant and recent articles to browse through. Certainly the categories and tagging mechanism seems to be bang on in this app.

The “Local” section is an offshoot of the “Interest” section, as this will automatically give your local news in your area ... if you have your Windows 10 location settings turned on. Alas I have all such things off for several reasons, not least that Windows 10 thinks I’m located 500 miles away from where I am! Thankfully the local section allows you to search for your location manually (hurrah!) and then shows you your own local feed. It’s not that great really. At least not for my location, as there’s only one local news source. The headlines also look odd in their respective blocks, and clicking on an article just takes you to that news source’s webpage. This might be because Microsoft have no specific deal with my local news provider so as to be able to customise their articles, rather than the app’s fault.

The last section is full of Videos pulled from all various news sources. They open up embedded within the app in what looks very similar to the Film & TV video app window. Not much to say here, other than the videos really do cover a very diverse range, from the serious to the mostly ridiculous. The emphasis from my glance through is leaning towards to latter genre. This looks probably because more of the news sources that the videos are pulled from come from “colourful” news sites. Still, there’s some decent videos in here to pass away half an hour of your life.

Settings wise there’s little to play with. There's a Editions choice that is useful for the globally located, a dark theme for articles that are embedded in the app and a Breaking News Alert that does sort of work but, compared to other news apps I’ve got installed, I hardly ever seen an alert from this app.

What’s the alternative?

Plenty these days. Other than the masses of news websites available, several reputable newspapers now have Windows 10 apps such as the Daily Mail and The Guardian, which are actually quite decent and undoubtedly structured a lot more consistently and logically than Microsoft’s offering,

Hit, Miss, or Maybe?

Maybe; it’s a tough one to rate because it does have a lot of content in it which is pulled in from various other news providers. The app also contains some customisations and features that have their usefulness. However, there’s something clearly muddled about the app which makes it a little obtrusive and unappealing to spending any significant amount of time within on a PC. If you’re on a mobile device then maybe but on a PC you’ll be reaching for your web browser within 10 minutes of using this app.

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