3 Free iOS Apps for News Hounds

My life has become quite hectic lately. There was a time when keeping up on the latest news was part of my daily routine, at the very least I would keep an eye on technology news. Lately, however, demands of work, home, and what can be laughingly called my social life has cut down on my intake of current events drastically.

For instance, did you know that a commercial spacecraft will (or has) rendezvous with the International Space Station today (5/25/12). The last space related news I recall was the final launch of our shuttles, which ended an era that was full of successes and tragedies for our manned space program.

The Dragon Spacecraft, developed and lofted into orbit by SpaceX, a private company founded by tech billionaire, Elon Musk, is capable of crewing 7 astronauts or ferrying tons of cargo to and from the space station and it will put the U.S. back in full control of its space program. NASA has had to hitch a ride from other space capable countries to get astronauts and supplies to and from the space station.

I had read about Musk and SpaceX sometime last year, but I thought they were still at least a year away from actually getting anything up in orbit, much less docking and supplying the space station.

And what’s this I heard about Iran with nukes? When did that happen? Facebook IPO? Really? And this is a presidential election year! I should be all over the news getting my facts so that I can make an informed voting decision.

I’ve lost my way, news-wise.

What I and many others need is a way to cull through the continual blizzard of news items to find and pay attention to the things we want or should pay attention to. And I want to do it without having the view slanted toward some political or social ideology. Just give me the news straight up and let me make my own decisions.

If you’re like me and would rather not have your news shaken, stirred, and poured over ice then you need to get closer to the reporting and away from the analyzing. Lucky for us there are news agencies out there that just report the news. Associated Press (AP) and Reuters are the two sources I get my major news from, and both have gorgeous iOS apps that are free.

AP AP Mobile for iPad

AP recently revamped their app, optimizing it for viewing on both the iPhone and iPad, and the new app is clean, neat, and easy to use regardless of platform.

On the iPad the app makes good use of all that screen real estate. Articles and photos are big and easy on the eyes. Navigation is easy too, with customizable categories, and a great search feature. Staying on top of the news can’t get much easier.

On the iPhone you get much the same thing, just formatted for the smaller screen. The trend these days is to use a dark background with white or light fonts. AP on both platforms default to this, but you can turn it off it you want. I also like that you have separate adjustment for headline and article font size. This makes reading much easier on aging eyes like mine.

AP iPhoneAP Mobile for iPhone

AP Mobile for both platforms is ad supported and there’s no option to get rid of the ads. Luckily they are not obnoxiously large or flashy.

In all the AP Mobile app for iOS should be one of your first stops for news.

When it comes to news you should never depend on one source no matter how independent and apolitical they may be. This is why I have the Reuter’s News app on my iOS devices.

I like how News Pro is laid out on the iPad, like a newspaper or magazine, with big pictures for the top news stories front and center. It’s easy to browse through articles or search for something specific. You’ll find major categories listed along the bottom of the screen and news categories under All Sections.

News Pro iPadReuter’s News Pro for iPad

The one thing I’m not so keen on with News Pro on the iPad is the lack of user adjustable options. I can’t pick the news section I want displayed when I first fire up the app. I would also like a summary view so that I can check more headlines at a glance instead of having the wade through the newspaper-like interface. You can adjust font sizes only in the articles, not for the whole app.

I do like the pinch-to-close gesture you can use when you’re done reading an article. It takes you back to the front page, making navigation intuitive, at least to some.

On the iPhone News Pro does offer a few user definable features, such as providing summaries instead of just the headlines, and you can change font size by tapping the “T+” or “T-” icons at the bottom of the screen when viewing articles. One sad omission is landscape mode, which often makes reading on the smaller screens a bit easier on the eyes.

News Pro iPhoneReuter’s News Pro for iPhone

Even so, you’ll want to keep this app handy. It downloads news items for offline reading, a boon to travelers trying to catch up on daily events while their device is in Airplane Mode. You also won’t find any ads, which I always count as a good thing. You can also track your favorite stock by add companies to your watchlist. The trading prices appear in the upper right corner of the screen on the iPhone. I wish they did the same on the iPad version where I have to tap the Stocks tab to see what my favorites are doing.

Reuter’s News Pro looks good, works well and should be one of your main sources for news.

Exactly what is news as different as the person reading it. Focusing on “hard” news can be tedious and depressing. After a while you start to lose faith in humanity. In that case you need a source that also looks at softer news stories, topics that won’t grab headlines or sell newspapers, but may be of interest if for no other reason than to counterbalance all the hard stories. For this type of news you need to go to National Public Radio (NPR).

NPR News iPadNPR News for iPad

While you’ll find hard news on NPR’s iOS apps, you’ll also find an in-depth focus of art, science, and technology. The stories tend to show the humanistic side of the topics they report on.

What I also like about the NPR News app is that you can add articles to your playlist for later reading. You can also listen to many of the news reports, a huge plus for those who commute. You can scan the articles and shows, select the ones with the speaker icon next to them, then listen to the reports like to would a music playlist. Very cool. Hourly newscasts are also available through the app.

There are some things the NPR app on the iPhone won’t do. There’s no font size adjustment that I could find, an no landscape mode. Both needed omissions.

NPR News iPhoneNPR News for iPhone

The iPad version is much better. You can adjust fonts, of course, but can also select categories from major topics for offline reading. And you still can create playlists for reading and listening on the go as well.

NPR for iPhone is good, but if you have an iPad, get that version. Both are ad free and free to use.

That’s a wrap for this week. Have a great weekend.

More free news apps below with direct links.