When Apple announced its News+ magazine and newspaper subscription service it alluded to it being new, fresh and something nobody has done before. But is it?

It can actually be argued that, while different in application, the concept is remarkably similar to Readly - a magazine subscription service that has been available to iOS and Android owners for more than five years.

What's more, Readly has a global reach already, including the UK and US, and is cheaper to subscribe to. So what is it about Apple News+ that could make you choose it over its main rival?

We look at them both to find out.

App UI

One major difference between Apple News+ and Readly is that you access the News+ paid-for content through a tab on the existing Apple News app that comes preinstalled on a new device or as part of an iOS 12 installation or greater.

Non-subscribers get the same top stories and highlighted free content on a regular basis through the app, but subscribers can also access 100s of magazines and newspapers for a flat fee when tapping on the News+ tab.

It presents the different editions thumbnail form, with animated covers on participating titles. Then, when you enter the magazine, the content is formatted specifically to be read on an iPhone, iPad or Mac. It doesn't look like a page from the relevant magazine, for example.

Readly is different. The downloadable app is available as a free download for iPhone and iPad via the App Store.

It too presents magazines in thumbnail forms, but presents the entire magazine as it appears in print. You effectively swipe through a pdf-style experience, therefore, adverts and all.

As with News+, you can choose favourites, download historical issues and keep as many downloaded issues as you have space for.

Interactivity in Readly is restricted to basic text entries for puzzle and crossword magazines. We're yet to see how news sources in Apple's app embrace user interaction beyond the reading experience.

Profiles

Both News+ and Readly allow you to share a single subscription across a family.

Up to six family members can enjoy News+ content across their iOS and Mac devices, while Readly gives you the option to create up to five different profiles.

We're not yet sure whether you can select from different News+ profiles on the same device, but Readly does exactly that.

No matter the device it loads onto, it offers you the different profile options before starting fully. This then presents the exact magazine preferences and favourites specific to that profile.

Magazines and newspapers

Apple News+ offers more than 300 magazines and newspapers published in the US and Canada to subscribe to - including big names like Time, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker and GQ. You can see a full list here.

It is still a very young service, however, so will no doubt grow over time.

Readly, on the other hand, is well established and currently offers more than 3,000 magazines and periodicals. It doesn't really include many newspapers, but some of its big hitters include Hello, SFX, Q, Empire, GQ (also) and Edge. It differs in that it is not region locked - you can opt to include magazines from the US, including Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Forbes and, yes, Guns $ Ammo, or from many other supported countries.

There are hundreds of titles available in the UK or US alone.

Price

We don't yet know the UK price for Apple's News+ service, but a subscription costs $9.99 per month in the States ($12.99 in Canada).

Apple also offers the first month for free, for you to try it out first.

Readly costs £7.99 per month in the UK and a similar $9.99 per month in the States. It currently offers a month's trial subscription for 99p.

Both services allow you to cancel at any time, with the subscription ending once your last paid month expires.

Availability

Apple launched its News+ service on 25 March 2019 and it is currently available in the US and Canada only. It is coming to the UK and Australia "fall 2019" - that's autumn in Brit speak.

Readly is already available in many countries around the world, including the UK, US and Canada. It also carries content for Australia, India, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and much of mainland Europe.

Conclusion

To be fair, Apple News+ is a newcomer and has a lot of catching up to do to get to Readly's level.

It does offer something a little different, with its device-specific formatting and animated covers, presenting the content in a more smartphone friendly format for reading on a bus, say. But is it the unique offering Apple claims? Not really.

Saying so does Readly a great disservice. It has been presenting a "Netflix for magazines" for five years and, while a few publishers have dropped out in that time, others have jumped on board. It's also great for ensuring you never miss an issue of a favourite magazine from a different country or in a different language. News+ has a lot of catching up to do on that front.

Apple does offer newspaper content though and, perhaps, that is where it will find its niche - offering stories that are usually hidden behind paywalls for a single monthly fee. We'll have to see when it beds in and expands to other regions.

Until then, Readly has little to fear.

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