Google News app

Cool factor 3/5

Usability 5/5

This month the Google Play Newsstand was replaced with Google News, an app that claims to use artificial intelligence (AI) to serve you better, more targeted news.

In Newsstand, you could subscribe to and access content from newspapers and publishers. Google News has a broader scope with published (nonpaywalled) content, tweets, images and more all appearing in your feed. Newsstand is now a section in the app.

If you subscribe to sources using the "subscribed with Google" function, you’ll be able to access paywalled content in the app or wherever you are logged in with your Google account.

You won’t have to choose your interest topics upfront either. The app will learn your preferences as you use it, employing reinforcement learning. If you want specific topics or sources to follow, you can do so in the Favourites section. There’s also a Saved Stories section under Favourites so you can come back to stories later.

The launch screen on opening is your newsfeed (called For You). At the time of writing, it offered me a broad mix from sources such as Business Day, EWN, Sowetan Live and Business Tech. Each story has a time stamp (for example two hours ago, nine hours ago) and a menu button that opens up to let you save for later, share the article or access the source’s feed. Also under that menu are handy short cuts like "hide all stories from XYZ publication", "More stories like this" and "Fewer stories like this".

The Headlines section is good for news at a glance. You can scroll through regions and topics, or passively enjoy the curated top news slide show.

Under some of the available stories, you’ll see a small banner offering "full coverage" or the full coverage icon.

Tapping this takes you to a screen with a range of stories on the topic, from various sources.

This could function as an antidote to the bubble you can accidentally find yourself in with media and social media — seeing the same sources and the same angles or treatment of stories that can contribute to a confirmation bias.

Finally, if you’re looking for something specific — a news item or news source — there is a search button on the top of every section of the app.