Apple News Plus adds another word game with iOS 17.5 update — here's how to play

Quartiles game on Apple News Plus
(Image credit: Future)

Apple is following the lead of the New York Times and adding games to its news service.

The New York Times hosts Wordle, Connections and Spelling Bee among other games, to the point where at least one report claims people spend more time in the Times' game app than its news app. Apple may not have reached that point yet, but the newly released iOS 17.5 update adds a new game for Apple News Plus subscribers.

Joining the crossword puzzles added to News Plus last year is a new word game Quartiles that challenges players to spell words with tiles containing two to four letters. A new Quartiles game posts ever day, and you'll find it in the Puzzles section of the News app on your phone after you update to iOS 17.5.

That's not the only addition to Apple News Plus with the latest iOS update. iOS 17.5 also adds an offline mode, which automatically downloads content on to your phone for reading when you don't have a Wi-Fi or cellular connection.

I've spent a little bit of time with Apple News Plus running on iOS 17.5. Here's a closer look at both new features.

Meet Quartiles

Quartiles game in Apple News Plus

(Image credit: Future)

The Quartiles game will likely be the star attraction for Apple News Plus subscribers in iOS 17.5 given the popularity of crosswords since they were added in last fall's iOS 17 release. In a newsroom post announcing the game, Apple calls Quartiles "an original spelling game," with players collecting points for each word they're able to form out of the tiles in a 4x5 grid.

Each tile contains at least two letters, with as many as four letters. You tap the tiles in order to combine them into words. Longer words using more tiles garner the most points, with the goal being to find the five four-tile combinations included in each puzzle. These are the titular quartiles that bring in the most points.

Besides forming words, your goal is to rack up as many points as possible so that you can reach the 100-point expert level. That's why it pays to amass two-tile words alongside those four-tile quartiles, as they'll help with your final score.

Speaking of scores, Quartiles integrates with Apple's Game Center so you can see how your Quartile result compares to that of friends who are also Apple News Plus subscribers. You can also see how you performed on the global scoreboard.

Quartiles is limited to Apple News Plus subscribers in the U.S. and Canada for now.

Offline mode for Apple News Plus

Apple News Plus offline mode in ios 17.5

(Image credit: Apple)

About a month ago, I found myself on my airplane flight with my iPhone in airplane mode and myself unwilling to pay for sketchy in-flight Wi-Fi. In that instance, the new offline mode added to Apple News Plus with iOS 17.5 would have come in handy, letting me read offloaded news stories, liten to audio stories and even play games with no connectivity.

In offline mode, the News app downloads relevant content — articles, magazine issues, puzzles and audio briefings — using available space on your iPhone. Go back online, and News Plus refreshes the offline content with updated stories.

Apple News Plus offline mode settings

(Image credit: Future)

The best thing about this feature is you don't have to do a thing — it all takes place in the background. If you want, however, you can go into the Settings app, select the News app and specify what kind of content you do and don't want for offline mode. You can also turn the feature off if you prefer.

In its News Plus announcement, Apple says offline content will be "optimized to maximize space" on your iPhone or iPad. In my experience, testing the feature with Airplane mode turned on, that means that some images included with Apple News stories may not appear when you're in offline mode.

Apple News Plus bottom line

Both Quartiles and offline mode are exclusive additions for Apple News Plus subscribers. The service costs $12.99/month and gives you access to more than six dozen newspapers, 450 magazines and 15 digital-only publications.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.