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Apple Releases iOS 13.6 with Apple News Audio Features and Expanded Local News Coverage, Plus Digital Car Key Support

Today Apple announced big enhancements to its Apple News offerings paired with the launch of iOS 13.6. Apple News is entering the world of audio through two main products: a daily news program called Apple News Today, which is available free to all users, as well as premium audio versions of News+ stories which are exclusive to paying News+ subscribers. iOS 13.6 also introduces curated local news experiences to Apple News in a handful of regions, and brings initial support for the digital car key feature first announced at WWDC.

Apple News Today

Apple News Today can be accessed from either the News or Podcasts apps.

Apple News Today can be accessed from either the News or Podcasts apps.

Apple is entering the field of daily news programs that’s been popularized by The New York Times’ The Daily podcast. Apple’s show is called Apple News Today, and it will be hosted by Apple News editors Shumita Basu and Duarte Geraldino. New episodes will be released every weekday and remain under 10 minutes each, quickly covering the day’s best journalism in a digest format.

Apple News Today can be enjoyed from the new Audio tab of the News app,1 or it can optionally be subscribed to as a podcast in Apple Podcasts.

News+ Audio Stories

Audio stories for Apple News+.

Audio stories for Apple News+.

While Apple News Today is for all users, News+ subscribers will be the exclusive recipients of new audio stories Apple is commissioning. Audio stories are being made available for a limited number of News+ feature articles chosen by Apple’s editorial team. There will be about 20 audio stories produced every week from a range of magazines and news publications such as Sports Illustrated, TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and more.

News+ audio stories can be found in the News app’s Audio tab alongside Apple News Today, from which you’ll be able to manage an Up Next queue of stories to listen to, as well as browse a collection of audio stories recommended for you. If you’re not a News+ subscriber, you’ll still be able to see the audio stories listed in the tab, but you’ll be limited to hearing preview versions of them.

Like in Music and Podcasts, you can create an Up Next queue of audio stories.

Like in Music and Podcasts, you can create an Up Next queue of audio stories.

One of the especially nice features of News+ audio stories is that you’ll be able to seamlessly switch between listening to the stories and reading them. Playback brings up a standard now playing screen like you’d see in Apple Music or Apple Podcasts, but tapping on the three-dot icon on the player will provide the ‘Read Story’ option which switches you to text mode and scrolls you to the exact place in the story where the audio left off. This works in reverse too: start a story by reading it, then tap the Listen button inside the article view and you’ll kick off audio playback at just the right spot. If Apple could get this to work for Apple Books as well, it could have a formidable product to counter Amazon’s eBook and audiobook market dominance.

Another detail worth noting for both News+ audio stories and the free Apple News Daily show is that all audio content will play seamlessly over CarPlay, so no matter how you’re traveling, you’ll be able to enjoy some audio news.

Curated Local News Experiences

Local news hubs.

Local news hubs.

Launching today in the Bay Area, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, Apple News is adding curated sections dedicated to providing local news. From the News app:

If you live in one of these spots, you’ll be seeing a new group in your Today feed featuring stories written by trusted sources and curated by our own local editors. It’s a great way to stay connected with your hometown. (Or another town — you can follow any of these locales even if you’re not a resident.) To celebrate the launch, we’ve put together collections featuring the best of each location.

There’s a Follow button available for each city, and I’m especially excited to start following my home town of New York City.

Digital Car Keys

At WWDC Apple demoed the process of unlocking and starting a vehicle using its new digital car key technology. Though this feature is almost impossible to access now, since it’s currently only supported on a single BMW vehicle, it nonetheless offers a fun glimpse into the future. And now, as of iOS 13.6, if and when you have that fancy vehicle that supports it, you’ll be able to do things like share digital keys over iMessage, unlock, lock, and start your car with your iPhone, and more.

With iOS 14 set to debut this fall, iOS 13.6 likely marks the end of the road for major iOS 13 updates. As someone who uses Apple News every day, and happily subscribe to News+, I love the additions of audio features and local news resources found in this release. The creation of a daily news program is smart, considering how popular shows like The Daily have become, and I’m excited that Apple News editors are going to start having more of a voice in the company’s news product – no pun intended. News+ audio stories will be a great fit for me too, since my queue of saved stories is longer than I can ever get through on my own. Time will tell whether Apple creates audio versions of the kinds of stories I care about, but their commitment of producing 20 per week makes me hopeful that there will always be something interesting for me to listen to.

  1. Which may be iPhone-exclusive currently. ↩︎

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