I’ve been using Apple News for the past few weeks and have come to the conclusion that it can combat fake-news, make you smarter and buoy the News Publishing Industry all at once! Okay, thats’s definitely a hot take, but let me dig in 🙂
Breadth and Trust
It’s an aggregator so one can find many news sources all in one spot – I have tremendous respect for outlets like WSJ, NYT, WaPo (and have their respective apps installed), but an aggregator is more time efficient. I see headlines from the likes of Politico, Fox News and The New Yorker, so I feel I’m getting a representative collection of viewpoints out there(no matter how much you agree or disagree ;-). There seems to be some sort of ‘approval’ process to become a Publisher and I’m going to assume you won’t see any articles from Heart of Texas and Being Patriotic, two Facebook groups that posted heavily about the 2016 election and were ultimately found to be created by our Russian friends.
Media, but not Social
The fact that there’s no social component to Apple News gives me most hope about fighting fake news and false information. So even if some questionable ‘publications’ do make it onto the App, there’s no chance that your crazy Uncle would amplify the articles by sharing. I probably get most of my news from Twitter and I love the timeliness that comes with so many individuals contributing to the platform, but it gets exhausting and overwhelming(Kanye, anyone?). Apple News updates only when there are new articles — there are no hot takes or ugly Twitter fights; it’s actually quite refreshing!
Pocket – the app that let’s you save articles to read later – just introduced an ‘Estimated Time’ to read feature. It’s subtle, but makes my experience with the service much better. I save a TON of articles to read later, but the number I actually go back to read is shameful. It’s hard to prioritize what to read when you can’t even count the number of articles in your archive – this is where Estimated Time helps. It adds context to my archive and makes it feel less overwhelming. Before, I couldn’t prioritize what to read because it all looked interesting – I was the one who saved them after all! But now I feel the product respects my own context. So if I’m on the bus commuting, I’ll go through some of the shorter articles. And if I’m spending a lazy Sunday on the couch, I’ll read New Yorker articles 🙂
I’d love to see the service add even more data-rich features like this. Here’s a few things that would be great to see:
Total Number of Articles Saved – this might scare me, but would provide additional motivation to actually read; I try to be mindful of the time I spend on my phone, but I classify reading on Pocket as a productive thing
Total Number of Articles Read -this would provide a sense of accomplishment; I don’t like over-gamification of apps/services, so a simple articles read per week or month would be great
Progress made on each article – it remembers my scroll position, so a progress indicator seems doable; like estimated time, this would help me scan my list and quickly make decisions to read
We’ve been reading a lot in recent years about how people don’t download new Apps and how App discovery and the App Store are broken. The latter may not directly cause the former, but there’s definitely some impact. Apple wants you to use Apps; Apps make their expensive hardware that much more valuable to you. They even acknowledged this with that cute little video to kick off WWDC 2017. And it followed that Apple announced a whole new App Store for iOS 11. Apple’s Developer Site boasts: “Now the App Store has been redesigned from the ground up to provide a beautiful place to showcase amazing apps and to help customers discover new favorites.”
While the App Store was due for a change, I think the future of App discovery is the OS and not another App. I can’t remember the last time I downloaded an App just from browsing the App or Play Store. Yes, one has to go to the Store to download an App (for now), but you probably came to the store because you heard about this App from someone/somewhere else or there’s a specific action you’re trying to complete. Now this second part is where I think the opportunity exists.
App Discovery should be contextual. In a recent post on Notifications, Scott Belsky wrote about a ‘Notification Layer API‘ that “would take all kinds of data into account, like your location, your schedule, your propensity to engage with certain apps at certain times…” to make the Notifications you receive smarter. I propose this, but for App Discovery.
If you know me, you’re probably aware that I have a borderline obsession with Tennis. I love playing the game, but I follow it with even more passion. One of the enablers of this passion is the ATP/WTA Live Scoring App for iOS. The app is dead simple: it provides live, point-by-point scores for every match on the ATP(Association of Tennis Professionals), WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) and Challenger (This is what Triple-A is to MLB) Tours. The Tennis season is basically year round, with multiple tournaments per week, which have multiple matches per day. So the number of opportunities I have to open this app and see something new is really, really high. And so I open this app more times per day than I’d like to admit 😐
The App navigation is pretty straightforward, allowing you to quickly scan through active tournaments, daily schedules, and individual match statistics. The app won’t win an Apple Design Award at WWDC, but that’s not the point. The ‘point’ is that you can see live scores, updated in almost real time. The app has a setting that allows you to enable Auto Refresh of scores (I set that to ON, duh) and a setting for the Refresh Interval (10s is the fastest). According to the FAQ “As all data is received directly from the assigned ATP/WTA Chair Umpires, the data is considered official.”
I’ve “played” guitar for the past 15 years or so and I’m still mediocre at best. This is probably because of my lack of natural talent and/or lack of consistent practice time. I enjoy playing, but, as with most things, it’s easier to just not do them. While the talent gap may be hard to overcome, I found an app to make the practicing much easier – it’s called Yousician.
I initially downloaded their Guitar Tuna app to tune my guitar (as i was prepared to embark on my latest push to start playing again) and then found Yousician. Here’s a 30-second video overview:
Yousician has a syllabus for your instrument of choice (i chose rhythm guitar) and does a great job of progressing you from beginner levels to more advanced ones. While many guitar courses offer similar curriculum, Yousician actually tracks your progress through the courses and sends you reminders to continue or to finish a lesson. The reminders come in the form of email, but I would love for Yousician to use push notifications for the app*. They could learn from Duolingo, who sends reminder pushes at a time you specify.