When Apple released iOS 5 in October of last year, iOS device users got a few new features: free iMessaging, Notification Center, a faster Camera. It was a good update overall, with many features getting noticeably upgraded.

But there was also Newsstand.

Newsstand is basically a folder where all your magazine subscriptions live. You can download apps for tons of popular magazines for free, then purchase individual issues or subscriptions to those magazines.  Once you’ve got the free app and the paid subscription, you can read your pretty digital magazines on a hammock or a toilet or wherever the hell people read magazines.

But the important thing to remember here is that you need to download a free app to access your paid subscription content. It’s a little more complicated than it needs to be, but it fits within the way Apple does things. I mean, I get it, but does everyone else?

Looking at the myriad angry reviews for every magazine in Newsstand, the answer is no. No they don’t. Holy shit, they do not. Not at all.

It’s like if people see the word “Free” anywhere – in this case, on the app download page – they rip their shirts off in rage upon hearing that they can’t read all the magazines in the world for free.

“Totally misleading ripoff!!!!”?! Seriously? It’s a ripoff that magazines cost money? Isn’t that like picking up something at the grocery store and saying, “I don’t see a price sticker, so it must be free,” and then totally flipping your shit when the cashier asks for four dollars?

I like how Brave Finger says, “What’s the point of asking for reviews if the developers just ignore them?” Because you know what these reviews are saying? “GIVE US EVERYTHING FOR FREE.” That’s not constructive feedback, Brave Finger. Nobody’s going to say “Hey team, we got some feedback from users, and they say everything should be free, always. So effective immediately, we’re going to stop asking people for money because they HATE that.”

The people reviewing this magazine think it’s a SCAM now. Maybe they thought they’d get SOME free content and instead they got NO free content, and that’s the scam? Or maybe people are just thinking, “Listen, you guys, I’m on the Internet and you said this was free and it’s not so I’m going to yell at you in a way in which nothing bad can ever happen to me, and that means yelling a lot on a website.”

Every one of the above reviews comes from someone expecting something from the free app download. The last person even compares this to buying a magazine at a grocery store. Isn’t that how people buy magazines? You flip through them and if you don’t have time to read all the good stuff, you buy it? And also, it’s 1997? I guess I don’t know who buys magazines anymore.

Is it moms? Are moms buying all the magazines? Whenever I see someone doing something that’s both a little outdated but very sweet, I assume it’s moms. Email chain letters to warn me about something vague and unlikely? Awww, moms, thanks for your concern! Phone calls just to see how I’m doing? You could just check my Facebook page to find out, but I appreciate the phone call, moms! I miss you, too!

I just looked at the above screenshot again, and I noticed that the first review is from Granny Debbie, and she just wanted to read Good Housekeeping. She felt deceived when she couldn’t read the magazine for free. See, that totally supports my theory that moms are the people reading magazines! (Grandmas are moms, too! They’re just moms who had moms!)

That last guy brings up a good point: You can’t delete Newsstand. Newsstand is there so you can buy magazines, even if you’re not a sweet mom. Deal with it.

I guess the lesson here is that if you use the word “FREE” at any point in your purchase process, you better offer something for free. Sure, I may understand Apple’s in-app purchase subscription model, but I’m also a tech nerd. I shouldn’t expect my grandfather to understand in-app purchasing before he downloads the free Bass Fishing Quarterly app to his iPad. He just wants to look at photos of dope-ass fish and read about the latest in bait technology (a sweet corn on a fish hook???) or whatever. If I had to explain to him, “Well, yeah, the app store button said ‘FREE’ but you really have to buy a subscription,” then I’d still feel like a jerk even though I know it’s not my fault.  Sorry, Grandpa! That’s just the way it works! Looks like you’ve got to use Google to find your fish jpegs today.

Look, I gathered these screenshots on my bus ride to work. That’s five screenshots of continuous complaints from five different magazines in the span of about six minutes. People don’t get it. Fix your shit, Apple. You’re making sweet moms sad.

  • Fred

    Here’s the problem:  Once you’ve downloaded it, you’re committed to the subscription and there appears to be no recourse for not reading past “free”.  Since it doesn’t show up in the device settings to turn it off until the first time it renews, and they build enough fudge time into the requirements to allow the timelines to cross, it seems impossible not to be charged.  Apple has been so kind as to completely remove the “report an issue” pop-up from iTunes altogether, instead having it redirect to the Apple forums.  You can see that there are people asking the questions, and there are no threads answering it, though there are a number of blogs from Apple fanboys saying “lol ur stupid”. 

    You should be able to say “oops, I don’t want this” and remove it without any fault instead of being roped into a 35 dollar subscription simply for clicking on “free” to explore a new feature of your phone.



  • Amber Brown

    Maybe they should just tag them “free with subscription” instead of “free”. A little truth in advertising.

  • Jager

    Stfu you son of a bitch. Don’t protect apples rip offs you muck face degraded punk

  • Admit-it:newsstand sucks

    Lol. The ” newsstand debate” falls into 2 categories; people who think that because they paid a lot of money for their iPhone they should be allowed to tailor it to their own needs. The other group, the Disciples of Job (not the biblical one) , defend apple with their very soul, to tell people what they really want. Some FREE advice to AAPL? Don’t piss the masses off too much ; the droid has value as a market competitor.
    The advice was free. The subscription will be $20 ;-) cash or charge?

  • Blue

    The thing is that there’s not really an explanation of what Newsstand is. No sense flying to a rage—when I was confused, instead of leaving an angry comment, I did a Google search for “how does newsstand work” and it brought me here—but the app did confuse me. From the name, I thought it’d be a way to manage the online news sites that I regularly use (for free). All you see when you go into the store is a bunch of free apps for magazines, many of which I didn’t recognize. I did assume they would be sort of blog-style magazines—maybe even supplements to existing mags, but possibly all “magazines” developed specifically for the iPhone. I did not expect a free subscription to the Boston Globe, but it’s still a little disappointing (if not surprising) to only find out after downloading that it’s just basically a reader for the print mag you already subscribe to. This is still a cool idea, I think! If I read a bunch of magazines, I could see myself using this. But it’s not really a good business strategy to just lol at the people who don’t understand how to use your system. Would it kill Apple to, you know, explain what Newsstand does? (Maybe.)

  • Rich

    The problem simply is it “looks” like there is free content whereas as you point out in reality all that is free is the ability to access you digital subscriptions which in all fairness I would expect to be free anyway!
    Lets be honest, would you make a digital subscription if you then had to pay more money to access that subscription?
    No! Of course not! So the “free” apps are nothing to brag about.

    Taking such a hostile demeaning attitude towards people who are confused by this just because you know how it works, about something that shouldn’t include the word “free” anywhere won’t earn you any favours or respect and in all fairness makes you look like a bit of an arse. No offence!

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