Newstand vs Next issue vs Zinio iPad magazine subscription app shootout!

Newsstand vs. Next Issue vs. Zinio: magazine subscription apps for iPad shootout!

Newsstand is Apple's default way to enjoy magazines on the iPad. But is it the best way? Zinio has been around a long time, and Next Issue is brand new, and both offer different options and approaches. But is one better than another, and for whom?

Let's find out!

Newsstand vs. Next Issue vs. Zinio: User interface

Newsstand vs Next Issue vs Zinio user interface

Newsstand is Apple's built-in magazine and newspaper subscription service, and comes on every iPhone and iPad since iOS 5. The icon for Newsstand will always be on your Home screen and to the dismay of many, can not be tucked into a folder (long story short, because it is a folder).

Newsstand for iPad user interface

When you launch Newsstand it will open much like a folder in iOS does and present you with a virtual bookshelf that will display all of the items you've currently subscribed to through the App Store. From here you can choose to open one of the subscriptions you already have or visit the App Store to find more content.

Tapping into a subscription will bring you to the main page for that publication's Newsstand offerings. Here is where Newsstand gets a bit confusing. Instead of applying a universal standard to all libraries, each subscription has their own menu system and navigation. This can get a bit irritating if you have a lot of subscriptions in Newsstand. Everything from the way you restore purchases to how you actually flick through and read a magazine can differ from publication to publication.

Considering Apple prides themselves on a consistent user experience, the way Newsstand has been implemented baffles me. Even the Store section is a bit confusing and leaves much to be desired. Instead of having its own store it is simply thrown in as a category to the App Store since all your subscriptions are technically apps that have in-app subscription purchases for issues. It was an easy way for Apple to add magazines and newspapers to what they've already been doing with games and other types of apps for a long time.

There's also no easy way to search for subscriptions. You'd just search the App Store like you would for a game or other type of app. It will mix in newspapers, magazines, and every other type of app imaginable into the results which makes it even more frustrating to find content. It may have been an easy add-in for Apple but it's definitely not a convenient one for readers.

Next Issue for ipad user interface

Next Issue takes a different approach to content management on the iPad. Once you download the app and launch it you'll be brought to the main library. Tap the large plus sign to add the subscriptions you'd like in your library. Tapping into any one of them will take you to the issues that are available for that magazine.

Since Next Issue is based on an overhead subscription cost a month you don't have to pay for individual issues. Adding a magazine will add a tile for it to your library screen. From there you can tap into individual issues which won't download onto your iPad until you tap into them.

The overall interface of Next Issue is not only clean but it's organized a lot better than Newsstand. Finding content is easy and downloading issues is simple since there aren't any outside subscriptions to manage.

Zinio for iPad user interface

Zinio is somewhat of a happy medium between Newsstand and Next Issue. While you will browse for magazines solely inside the app just like you would in Next Issue, you'll have to buy and manage individual subscriptions like you do with Newsstand.

There are three main tabs along the bottom that you will use to navigate the app: Explore, Read, and Shop. The Explore section will give you free samples of articles from popular magazines. This is a nice way not only to discover magazines that you may not of otherwise known about but to have some content every month or so that you don't have to pay for. The Read tab will give you a list of all the issues and magazines you have purchased.

The last tab and the most obvious is the Shop tab where you can browse for content to purchase. The layout of Zinio's shop section is not only appealing but very easy to navigate and find content. You can search through main sections and also view content available for under $10, what's trending, staff picks, and more.

When it comes to interface it's a tie between Zinio and Next Issue. They are both designed with the user in mind and make it much easier to find content than Apple's own Newsstand app.

Newsstand vs. Next Issue vs. Zinio: Reading

Newsstand vs Next Issue vs Zinio Reading

The most important aspect of using a magazine app is the experience you get while reading your content. While it's almost impossible to create a streamlined experience across all magazines as every publisher will do it different, the in-app controls can certainly help the process along.

Newsstand for iPad Reading

Newsstand stops controlling how content is presented the minute you tap into a publication off your bookshelf. From there on out it's pretty much at the magazine producer's discretion as far as how you're going to view content going forward. In some instances, publishers have really taken advantage of this to make gorgeous digital content. In others it can be frustrating and cluttered.

Newsstand vs. Next Issue vs. Zinio: Reading Interface

Next Issue allows publishers to design the magazines in whatever fashion they think is best for showcasing their content but there is still a continuous navigation system that follows through regardless what you're reading. Tapping on the screen will bring up a transparent menu that allows you to tab through sections, return to your library, view a list menu of what's in the issue, and more.

The only thing I noticed about Next Issue that was a little frustrating was that if you are on a page with an ad, depending on how the publisher implemented it, tapping on the screen can load it in a web browser. To avoid it, tapping towards the bottom of the screen will always bring up the navigation. It took me a while to figure this out but tapping towards the bottom always seems to solve the issue of ad popups.

Zinio for iPad Reading

Zinio is similar to Next Issue in terms of displaying content. Even though each magazine may have its own gestures or controls, the same menus are available while reading. You can view a list view of contents as well as a tile view which Next Issue does not have. It makes for a great way to skim an issue and see what interests you first.

Zinio adds one more thing that Next Issue does not have and that's a separate bookmarks section. Bring up the main navigation menu while reading and tap the bookmarks icon to add a bookmark to your bookmarks bar. This will bookmark the page for later reference. The only down side is that it isn't universal. It will save it inside the issue. If Zinio could find a way to aggregate these to where you can view all bookmarks across all subscriptions in one place, that would be a great way to skim for articles across any magazine without having to hunt down the specific magazine first.

When it comes to reading, Zinio provides the best experience.

Newsstand vs. Next Issue vs. Zinio: Content selection and pricing

Newsstand vs Next Issue vs Zinio Content and pricing

Newsstand has one of the largest selections of content available and works off individual subscriptions. Almost all magazines are free to download into Newsstand and many have sample issues to download but you'll need to purchase individual issues or a subscription as an in-app purchase. Many times, if you subscribe to a print version, the publisher will have an iPad version that you can log in to as well so you don't have to pay again.

Newsstand for iPad content and pricing

The problem with the Newsstand subscription model is that you'll have to handle them all separately unless you've purchased them all as in-app purchases. Even then it gets a bit tedious to figure out when your subscriptions end and which ones are set to renew.

Next Issue implements a completely different type of subscription model. You can subscribe monthly and access all the different titles they have. A basic subscription of $9.99 per month will get you access to unlimited issues of every monthly magazine they carry. A $14.99 per month subscription will add weekly released magazines to the mix.

Next Issue for iPad content and pricing

One down side to Next Issue is that they don't carry every single magazine. They do have a lot of popular titles but if you read things outside of what they carry, you'll have to go elsewhere to get the content. If you only subscribe to the magazines they carry, it may very well be a good deal. Some of the more popular titles include Allure, People, Self, The New Yorker, Time, Sports Illustrated, Better Homes and Gardens, Wired, Vogue, and more.

Next Issue does offer a 30 day free trial before you'll be billed so it doesn't hurt to try it out before you take the leap. If you read enough of their content it may be cheaper to subscribe and just choose a la carte from either Newsstand or Zinio for the remaining content.

Zinio for iPad content and pricing

Zinio uses a model very similar to Newsstand in which you subscribe to each magazine individually or purchase single issues as you want. When it comes to pricing, Newsstand and Zinio prices are about the same across the board as I'm assuming they're probably set by the publishers themselves.

When it comes to price, Next Issue will definitely be the best deal as long as the content you want to read is available on their service. If all of it isn't, it's really going to come down to personal reading preferences and what subscriptions you can't live without.

Newsstand vs. Next Issue vs. Zinio: Cross-platform syncing

Newsstand vs Next Issue vs Zinio Cross Platform Syncing

Newsstand is available on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch running iOS 5.0 or above. Apple also offers automatic downloads across your devices so if you subscribe on one, the content will also be pushed to your other iOS devices automatically.

Next Issue is currently only available on iPad so if you read or plan to read on your iPhone or iPod touch, you may want to rule out Next Issue. If you've got an iPad and an Android device, there is however an Android app available. Depending on what kind you have, it may be worth checking out if your devices are supported.

Zinio is the only app that has not only an iPhone and iPad app but a desktop reader for both PC and Mac as well. And if you've got Android devices, they've got you covered on that front as well.

When it comes to cross-platform syncing Zinio has the most options across the most platforms.

Newsstand vs. Next Issue vs. Zinio: Conclusion

Newsstand vs Next Issue vs Zinio Conclusion

Newsstand, Next Issue, and Zinio are all acceptable ways of viewing and consuming media on your iPad. Depending on what kind of content you read, one may be a better option for you than another.

Newsstand a good choice for those who read only on their iPhones and iPads and have a wide array of content they want access to. Depending on where you live, Newsstand can offer a lot of different titles and tons of publications to choose from. If selection is the most important factor to you and the inconsistent interface isn't a deal breaker, Newsstand is what you'll want to use.

Next Issue's subscription pricing is definitely the way to go for anyone looking for a deal. The only caveat -- and it's a big one -- is that the selection is still very limited. If the magazines you want aren't there, it doesn't matter what the price is. On the other hand, if Next Issue has enough content for you, go for it.

Zinio is best for those who use multiple platforms and want their content every platform, including the desktop.

Overall, this is another case where there's no one good solution. Which one is best for you will depend on which compromises you're willing to make -- interface, content selection, or pricing.

Next Issue is the best choice, unless it doesn't have the magazines you want.

Next Issue - Free - Download Now

Zinio - Free - Download Now

Allyson Kazmucha

Editor for iMore, Potter pundit, and the ninja in your iOS

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There are 9 comments. Add yours.

Carioca32 says:

I have never used Next Issue, will try soon, thanks for the tip Ally.

I find Newsstand absolutely terrible, the lack of an interface standard is very annoying to say the least, and at least some publishers like Conde Nast force you to stay with ther app open while it download issues, otherwise it will stop, not Apple-like at all. Not to mention that you cannot unsubscribe through Newsstand, you have to access your iTunes account on a Mac or PC. Talk about a post PC world, eh?

There is a fourth option which I currently prefer, Amazon´s Kindle. All in all it is a much easier and seamless process than Newsstand, and you can subscribe and unsubscribe from the iPad. There is no interaction per se, but on the other hand you can zoom at will. I gladly trade the confusing standardless navigation of Newsstand for the clear readability of the Kindle.

Russell_L says:

Great, informative article! I was about to spring for Next Issue, but several reviews (in the iTunes Store) downgraded the app because of the lack of Retina support. It's reportedly coming soon, but since I have an iPad 3, I'll wait for the time being....

iSRS says:

The Time, Inc. magazines also are not retina ready in newsstand. Very disappointing.

acecommander says:

Good article. Didn't know about Next Issue, but I'll be trying it to see if it's worth $120 a year. After reviewing the website and seeing what's in their library, I probably won't pay to use it, unless there are new magazines added pretty soon.

vish30 says:

Hey Allyson in your conclusion you have listed best choice interms of price, variety of content available but how about if someone is looking out for Better Reading Experience, Ease of reading, Better UI then which would be the winner Nextissue or Zinio ?Something like Kindle offers in eBooks ?

Geo Cockbill says:

Two things
Best for a mag publisher?
Are you going to review mag apps for publishers
Let me khow you next blog on the topic
Geo

CarolinaLady69 says:

I am thrilled to see other options for buying digital magazines other than Newsstand! If I ever found a magazine for which I was looking, it was purely by accident. No "Search" box to be found. Alphabetical order? Obviously that would be too sensible & useful. I have neither the inclination nor the patience to sit & sift through a random list of magazines comprised mostly of titles of which I have never heard nor am I remotely interested in. {I apologize for the horrible syntax!}. And, as an extra bonus, both Next Issue & Zinio save me money! It's a winning combination.

Canuck Gal says:

I'm a magazine junkie, so overall cost is pretty important. When I got my first iPad 2.5 years ago, I signed up fro Zinio pretty quick -- but I ditched them within a few months. The quality of the app was decent; the reading experience was decent; and although the prices were rather steep for digital subscriptions, it was the only decent alternative at the time

I quickly became disenchanted. Because I signed up directly through their site, they had my name, email address, and postal address. They shared that information with EVERY single publisher whose magazines I had subscribed to. I then started getting floods of postal mail, solicitations for subscribing to the paper versions of the magazines! In addition, most of the publishers also sent email solicitations.

Zinio also sent solicitations: for every magazine to which I had subscribed, they started sending "Renew now" emails a full FOUR MONTHS before the subscription expired. Not only did they want me to renew four months ahead, they wanted me to PAY four months ahead. When I contacted them to complain about this strategy, they said they want to be sure that subscribers didn't miss an issue of a magazine, and that contacting people 4 months prior to the end of a subscription is standard practice in publishing. That may be true for paper magazines: but it is bloody ridiculous for digital mags!! I got into a huge fight with them, and they ended up refunding all the money I had spent, and promised to cease and desist the "RENEW NOW" emails. I got my money back - but the emails continued, and continued, and continued - despite several telephone calls and much gnashing of teeth.

I ended up putting a whole lot of filters in my email account to prevent any further emails from them landing in my inbox; but I'm quite certain those emails are still coming.

I urge ANYBODY who is thinking of signing up for Zinio: think long and hard about whether you want to put up with that kind of harassment.

While there are flaws with Apple's newsstand app, I find it great to use, and appreciate that I am able to buy month-to-month subscriptions. What I most appreciate, though, is that every time I start a new subscription: Apple asks if they can share my information with the publisher (Yes or No). I *always* say No; and not once has Apple revealed my personal information to any publisher. I am free to enjoy my digital magazines, without unwanted and unreasonable sales pitches winging at me from different directions. Thank you, Apple.

I've only just had the opportunity to sign up for Next Issue, as it only just now became available in Canada. I first checked with the folks there, and they assure me that under no circumstances whatsoever would they reveal my personal information to any publisher. Makes sense, since I am not actually subscribing to any particular magazine -- I'm just picking which ones I want to read, whenever I want to read them, from the selection of 100 titles. $9.99/month is a great deal for me -- I was spending about that much on monthly subscriptions before (via Newsstand). I've cancelled those subscriptions and will read exclusively through Next Issue. I greatly appreciate that there are back issues available, as well as the current issue. I've already discovered a couple of titles that I didn't know existed, that will now become part of my monthly reading. Couldn't be happier.

My advice: do not consider Zinio under any circumstances whatsoever. Newsstand and Next issue are both great, and both respect user privacy; choosing between them will depend on your volume of magazine reading.

DigiMahi says:

Really useful information. I think for iPad users Apple Newsstand works best. Haven't used Next Issue yet, would like give it a try though. Found more useful articles on www.applenewsstand.com and are good to read.