MSNBC iPhone App Review

This review refers to an early version of this app, released in 2010. Details and specifics of the app may have changed in later versions.

The Good

  • Fast breaking news alerts
  • Lots of NBC video content
  • Free

The Bad

  • Tons of ads

MSNBC has an interesting, informative—and very colorful—iPhone news app (Zumobi Inc, Free). It contains a good amount of news coverage, but the numerous ads can be overwhelming. 

Good Content, but Annoying Ads

Unlike most news apps, which use the main navigation bar, the MSNBC app has a multicolored, round menu that is always accessible at the top of the app. The menu includes a variety of sections, including U.S. News, World News, Politics, Business, and Sports.

Headlines are updated rather quickly, and MSNBC supports push notifications for breaking news alerts. Several other news apps offer these sorts of notifications as well—including CNN Mobile and AP Mobile—but MSNBC uses it most often (if you don’t like these alerts, you can turn them off in the settings menu). 

The app also includes a good amount of video content from MSNBC and NBC shows like Morning Joe, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show. Videos load quickly when connected to Wi-Fi (3G and EDGE buffering times are slower) and are updated just hours after those shows originally aired. You can also read blogs and Twitter feeds from NBC personalities like Ann Curry, Rachel Maddow, and David Gregory. 

Navigating the app is easy enough, and most headlines are accompanied by a thumbnail photo. In a nice nod to using an iPhone, you can also set headlines to “flow” so you can scan through them with one hand. 

However, the MSNBC app feels more commercial than many others. The app hits you with an ad at nearly every opportunity, and while that is expected from a free app, it’s a little overwhelming at times. 

A Few Updates Since the Original Review

This review was originally published in March 2010. In the intervening six years, many things have changed about the app:

  • Perhaps most importantly, the app under discussion in this review became the NBC News app and MSNBC launched an entirely new app. You can download the new MSNBC app at the links at the top and bottom of this article
  • The new version of the app is designed primarily as a way to watch the shows that air on MSNBC. Text articles are to be found in the NBC News app. You can use this app to watch MSNBC shows like The Rachel Maddow Show and Hardball with Chris Matthews both live as they're airing and on-demand. On-demand episodes are limited to a handful of recent episodes
  • It's worth noting that some video features require you to have a valid cable or satellite TV subscription and log in with that account
  • There's also a watchlist feature that allows you to save episodes to watch late 
  • Unlike the earlier app which was plagued by ads, the only ads you should find here are those that air along with the shows you're watching
  • The new MSNBC app has been well received, with the most recent version getting a 4.5-star average rating at the App Store.

    The Bottom Line

    There are two things I really like about the MSNBC iPhone app - the fast and frequent breaking news alerts and the variety of video content. However, the ads can quickly become a drag, and many of the articles come from The Associated Press, which has its own iPhone app. Overall rating: 3.5 stars out of 5. 

    What You'll Need

    The MSNBC app is compatible with the iPhone and iPod touch, and you’ll need iPhone OS 3.0 or later. 

    This review refers to an early version of this app, released in 2010. Details and specifics of the app may have changed in later versions.