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Samsung is Copying Apple News

By Sam Mattera - Sep 10, 2015 at 3:00PM

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The Korean tech giant has partnered with a European publishing giant for a Galaxy exclusive news app.

Earlier this month, Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF), in partnership with European publisher Axel Springer, launched UPDAY, a curated news app exclusive to its Galaxy devices. For the time being, UPDAY is in a beta test, and is restricted to Germany and Poland -- but it's slated to arrived in other European markets next year.

UPDAY's release notably follows an announcement Apple (AAPL 0.17%) made earlier this year. In June, at its Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple unveiled Apple News, a curated news app set to arrive later this month. UPDAY is not as big or as compelling as Apple News could be, but it should help Samsung keep pace with the iPhone-maker.

Curated news, exclusive to iOS
Arriving with iOS 9 on September 16, Apple News is a new app from the Cupertino tech giant. As its name implies, Apple News aggregates content from a wide variety of publishers, serving it up in a sleek interface. Apple's partners include Condé Nast, ESPN, Hearst, Bloomberg and CNN, and many others. Apple is using a combination of algorithms and editors to curate the Apple News feed, highlighting particularly interesting stories and tailoring the news to each individual reader. At launch, its markets will be limited to the U.S., U.K., and Australia, though it should expand to other markets over time.

Apple is unlikely to make much money from Apple News, at least not directly. It's letting publishers keep 100% of the revenue from the ads they sell, and 70% of the revenue from the ads Apple sells for them.

Rather, the advantages Apple gains from Apple News are likely to be more strategic -- if it succeeds in attracting the attention of readers, it should benefit Apple's broader ecosystem. Apple News is exclusive to Apple's iOS devices. Those that wish to use it are required to purchase Apple's hardware, and switching to a rival manufacturer would entail dropping Apple News. If Apple News is favorably received, it would give consumers another reason to choose Apple's iPhone 6S over Samsung's Galaxy S6 and its iPad over Samsung's Tab S2.

Samsung responds with UPDAY for Galaxy
Likewise, Samsung's UPDAY will be exclusive to its Galaxy handsets. Like Apple News, UPDAY uses a combination of an algorithm and a team of editors to populate its app. Axel Springer is Samsung's sole partner for the time being, but the firm is a European publishing giant. Bild, its tabloid, is among the most popular papers in the world. To expand UPDAY, Samsung will need to partner with other firms in other markets, but its deal with Axel Springer should give it a compelling offering in Europe.

Admittedly, this is not Samsung's first outing into the world of news, but it is its most substantial. Its Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S6 include the Samsung-exclusive apps My Magazine and Briefing. Like Apple News and UPDAY, they offer Galaxy handset owners a way to quickly read popular news items on their handsets. However, neither is particularly exclusive -- they're merely third-party apps rebranded. Both are powered by the third-party news Flipboard, which is available for virtually any Android device. Flipboard's Android app was, for a brief time, exclusive to Samsung's flagship Galaxy SIII, but is now widely available.

Of course, Flipboard is also available for iOS, and is highly regarded, with a solid 4.5 star rating on Apple's app store. And Flipboard isn't alone -- there are other third-party news-reading apps, such as feedly. Whatever ecosystem pull Apple News and Samsung's UPDAY manage to exert should be lessened by the existence of these other platforms.

Ultimately, following Apple into news was a wise decision, and should keep Samsung's Galaxy handsets competitive in terms of features, but it remains to be seen how compelling users ultimately find both apps to be.

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