Back in 2014, Microsoft brought its suite of MSN apps to Android. The apps divide various aspects of “lifestyle” topics such as news and weather in order to help people keep up with whatever interests them. Microsoft killed off some of the suite last year, but the apps that remain are News, Money, Sports and Weather. There’s nothing particularly special about the information or the presentation in any of them, but they do work well side by side and sync your personal information to the cloud for easy management.
Between these four apps, there’s a lot more similar than there is different. They each share the same basic UI: a tabbed listing of various columns, a hamburger menu to the left exposing additional options, a search bar along the top and a bar with different buttons that will show up at the bottom of the screen intermittently. The whole design is a mix of the Windows Phone 7 and 8 era paginated organization blended with the Holo era Android design. All in all in works well, but looks a little dated on modern devices. There are some personalization options if you dig into the settings for each app, but they are generally pretty bare. You can even sign in with your Microsoft account so that it’s easier to track your personalization across your devices. All in all, I appreciate the unified design language between the apps and the detailed information each of them shows but I really wish Microsoft would give them a fresh coat of paint.
There are some unique aspects to each app that I’d like to point out though. The weather app gives a sizeable amount of detail, giving a daily breakdown with a temperature graph and sunrise/sunset times, maps with readouts for different weather variables, weather specific news and favorited cities all in one place. The majority of the sports app is focused on scoreboards, a listing of completed or upcoming matches in various sports. Each sport is broken down even further, showing top news articles, videos, current standings and more. There are some other things included as well, like popular video, photo and athlete content. The money app starts off with a single article giving a summary for the stock news of the day and then offers sections to break things down further. If you save a particular company’s ticker symbol in the watchlist, it will give you a summary of their performance and links to relevant news reports. The most curious addition is a suite of personal finance tools, like a mortgage calculator and a retirement planner. And finally, the news app is the most straightforward of the four. It gives you a Top Stories section that can be customized with different types of news or columns of the various topics individually. You can also search for news and look at video content if you’re so inclined.
All in all, the apps give enough content to make them worth a look but their greatest strength is just that they integrate with your Microsoft account to sync your personal information across your devices. With the recent attention Microsoft has been giving to design across its suite of apps, I hope the MSN suite doesn’t get lost and end up languishing without updates for much longer.