Schrödinger's Newsstand

Prior to iOS 7, Newsstand was a special folder that shared iBooks' distinctive wood shelving look, that couldn't be removed from the Home screen or hidden in another folder, and whose icon gave you glimpse of the issues stacking up inside, if any. Since iOS 7, a lot of that has changed. Hamish McKenzie for Pando Daily:

For an Apple design, the Newsstand icon looks decidedly juvenile. But what's worse for publishers is that there is now no visual reminder within the Newsstand icon that there are publications inside, waiting to be read. On top of that, in iOS7 users can now hide the Newsstand icon inside a folder. The once-special treatment that Apple gave publishers in order to encourage the distribution of magazines to the iPhone and iPad had apparently vanished, at least in terms of visual prominence.

Worse still, all the special abilities Newsstand apps enjoyed in previous versions of iOS, including auto-renewing subscriptions, and background downloads, are now available to all apps in iOS 7. Creator of The Magazine, Marco Arment:

I see no benefit to magazines being in Newsstand anymore. Newsstand apps now have no meaningful exclusive abilities, and iOS 7 effectively buries them in a bland, opaque folder that's easily hidden.

Technically and politically, Newsstand also seems trapped between folder and app, between tent-pole feature in iOS 5 and barely any attention at all in iOS 7. And Newsstand developers are trapped with it, heavily discouraged from making the jump to regular apps, as they'd lose their existing subscribers in the transition.

So they're left somewhere in the middle. Newsstand is no longer treated like a folder, but Newsstand apps still can't be dragged out on the Home screen. Newsstand can be hidden in other folders now, but the Newsstand folder can't be found again via Spotlight search. Newsstand apps still get to update their covers to show off new issues, but those covers can no longer be seen in the Newsstand icon.

iOS 8 could roll around with a significant Newsstand relaunch, or with Newsstand obliterated entirely, or it could simply remain where it is now, stuck. For people with no interest at all in Newsstand, some of that is likely welcome news. For publishers, and for really great apps like The Magazine, The Loop Magazine, the New York Times, the future seems less than certain.

(Interestingly, Google has just merged their magazine service with their Currents product and relaunched it as Google Play Newsstand.)

Source: Pando Daily, Marco Arment

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.