October 13, 2014 Last Updated 11:59 am

Google News & Weather app offers limited features but adds to company’s real estate on iOS

The new app looks designed first and foremost for the iPhone, with the iPad design adding little to the utility of the news app

The search giant Google has been an enthusiastic app builder for iOS. With the release of its latest app, Google News & Weather, Google now has 44 apps for the iPhone. As this app is universal, the count for the iPad has grown to 31.

GoogleNews-iPhone5-W-lgIf that doesn’t see like a lot of apps, consider that Apple has a total of 17 apps under its own name for the iPhone, 18 for the iPad.

Google’s new app might send a chill down the spine of a publisher, though. What do they have in mind with this new app? Are they going deeper into the media content business?

No, this app is pretty benign. The app merely takes the search results from Google News and displays them in an attractive new layout that works well on the iPhone. Google, for whatever reason, has then added weather information on top of the whole thing. As many, many reviewers have pointed out, the last thing a smartphone needs is another weather app.

Like Google News as it appears on the desktop, the value in the search mechanism is enhanced when the user customizes their search results. Yes, Google will give you the top news headlines by default, but if you are interested in earnings reports, or sports teams, or a regional of the globe, Google News becomes more valuable if you sign into your Google account and create a new filter to pull up that news.

Here, inside the new iOS app, the amount of news offered is limited and there is no way to access more content in your desired categories. I assumed that pulling up on the search results would reveal more news – it doesn’t.

GoogleNews-iPadThe app, as mentioned above, is universal, But like many Android apps, this one is not really designed specially for tablets.

What I feared – and I bet a few others did, too – was that tapping the news stories might pull up a specially designed layout for the story, like Flipboard, for instance. That would have been a radical departure from Google search. Don’t worry, the links go right to the news source.

So why would someone need Google News & Weather? They don’t. But recently surveys have found that young people like apps, far more than older device owners. Many of the digital first crowd are stuck on the notion that the web is where it is at, and apps are redundant. They are, for them. But for many others, who spend large amounts of time on the Facebook or Twitter apps, an app that quickly pulls up the news is attractive.

Will this one gain an audience? Who knows. But that isn’t the point. The point is that the new app offers Google more real estate on the iOS platform, more ad space, more readers. The cost to do this was negligible. That the app is of minimal interest today may prove equally unimportant if Google can work to improve the app, add features and content, and maybe find something unique to do with it.

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