With Apple’s new and improved TV app getting all of the attention in last week’s release of iOS 12.3, it was easy to miss a small but important tweak that Apple also added to the Apple News+ experience: the ability to now actually follow your favourite magazines.
Apple launched its premium subscription-based News+ service back in March, and while the promise of access to over 300 magazines and some paywalled news publications for a flat monthly fee was attractive in itself, the actual user experience seemed very half-baked, and we definitely found ourselves hoping for improvements.
While the iOS 12.3 change is a minor one, it solves one of our biggest gripes with Apple News+ — the confusion around trying to figure out how to keep track of those magazines you regularly read. The initial release of Apple News+ in the iOS 12.2 News app added a “My Magazines” section that seemed like it was trying to intelligently collect your favourite magazines, but the result was a confusing mess. While you’d expected downloaded magazine titles to appear there, this didn’t happen, and there was no obvious way to add a favourite magazine to this section. Ironically, “My Magazines” seemed to be more useful when your iPhone or iPad was in Airplane Mode with no data connection than when you were actively connected to Apple’s News+ service.
Apple obviously knew that this was a big problem, since the company has not only slipped the fix into iOS 12.3, but actually went so far as to issue a press release explaining it:
Now, with iOS 12.3 and macOS 10.14.5, released May 13, Apple News+ subscribers are able to follow publications directly from the Apple News+ catalog. New issues from followed titles will be automatically downloaded and available offline, and Apple News+ subscribers can also download individual issues in each title’s channel in Apple News.Apple Press Release
In practical terms, this means that you’ll actually be able to deliberately build a list of your favourite magazines, rather than simply relying on the app’s prior hit-and-miss approach. With the change, a blue “Follow” button will now appear on the cover of each magazine in catalog view. Tapping this adds that magazine to what is essentially a favourites list, causing new issues to be automatically downloaded and available offline, as well as ensuring that they appear in the “My Magazines” view. Magazines that you’ve chosen to follow will now appear alongside standard Apple News content on the “Following” tab, where they can be removed if you decide you no longer want to continue following them.
Apple also took the opportunity in the press release to highlight how it’s still working to incorporate the “great feedback” that it’s been getting from its publishers, and how Apple’s teams are hard at work to improve the Apple News+ experience, as well as adding testimonials from six major publishers who have naturally given the service glowing praise.
We’ve heard a lot of great feedback from the hundreds of publishers available in Apple News+. The latest updates to Apple News+ aim to best showcase their incredible journalism and put the most trusted news sources at readers’ fingertips.Eddy Cue, Apple Senior VP of Internet Software and Services
While this gives us a great deal of hope that Apple will continue to improve the app to address its many UI shortcomings, so far iOS 12.3 has only delivered a small — albeit positive — step in that direction. Further, the betas of iOS 12.4 don’t yet seem to be making any additional improvements, suggesting that we’ll be waiting until iOS 13 before anything significant happens in terms of making the user interface more intuitive and improving content discovery.