What happens when you make a streaming app meant for people who are always on the go? In what seems like an experiment gone horribly wrong, Quibi is an upstart competitor to apps like Crackle, Hulu, and Netflix that only runs on your smartphone.
Launched in April, the app failed to catch on during the pandemic since many of us now work from home. (One report suggests there are only 72,000 users—a drop from almost a million who tried the 90-day trial.) That said, Quibi is extremely well-funded (close to $2 billion), and a few of the shows are worth watching—at a low monthly cost.
At least Quibi is trying something new. We’re evaluating the service after a few months of availability, which helps. It means we’re only partially annoyed by a signature feature—namely that the 10-minute episodes (both for original TV shows and movies, chunked up to make them seem more like a limited series) are mostly all available. Quibi normally teases out new episodes—a new one every weekday.
It’s not enough to make us love Quibi, and honestly the shows are just okay, but we’re reviewing it now because there’s a slim chance you’ll be watching it again soon.
Why is that? Two words: Steven Spielberg. He’s writing an original series for Quibi that will only play if your phone senses it is dark outside. Also: Naomi Watts. She’s starring in a new upcoming series called Wolves and Villagers. Plenty of other A-listers are also developing shows. And did we mention the surprisingly low price? It’s not a bad third or fourth app option, although we can’t really recommend it for most viewers.
- Low cost
- A few good shows
- Annoying episodic format
- No browser support
How much does Quibi cost?
One of the most affordable (yet expendable) apps we’ve found
In the grand scheme of things, Quibi is not a terrible app. Most of the original shows are passable if a bit average. At only $4.99 per month for the ad-supported version, Quibi compares nicely to the big guns out there. Of course, if you do pay for Hulu at $5.99 per month, you’ll have access to hundreds and hundreds of shows and movies. It’s also pretty easy to justify paying a bit more for Netflix as well, at $8.99 per month.
So there’s some serious competition. Similar to how Apple TV+ is positioned as an “extra” app you might use to augment your cable television subscription or HBO, the mobile-only viewing experience matches up with current trends. Yes, even during COVID-19, people are still watching videos on their phones. Gen Z in particular might like the short episodes, which tend to last about 5 or 10 minutes each.
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In total, Quibi offers 175 shows currently—a far cry from the 1,500 original shows Netflix has released since 2013 plus all of the non-original shows and movies (amounting to almost 14,000 videos available). With Netflix, you get what you pay for. With Quibi, not so much. The app is competing with upstart Netflix challengers like Disney+ and Apple TV+ as well. Quibi has a long way to go, so even that $4.99 per month is a tough sell.
Which devices are compatible with Quibi?
The short summary is that Quibi really only supports phones.
There are only two ways to watch Quibi shows. One is with your smartphone. There’s both an iOS and Android version. Sadly, Quibi doesn’t offer a tablet-formatted version for iPad or Android, so you’re stuck with the smaller smartphone size on those devices.
The second option is to stream from your phone to an HD television using either Apple Airplay or Google Chromecast. We tested both and they worked smoothly. One minor glitch is that, if you leave your phone locked, the next episode won’t play automatically. Also, your phone is not the best remote. We’re hoping Quibi eventually offers an actual smart television app and versions for both Roku and Amazon Fire devices.
It’s annoying that Quibi won’t work in a browser. It means you’ll always need your phone. There may be times when you want to finish an episode or two at work (not that we would ever do that). For now, that’s the most glaring compatibility issue.
What are the Quibi most unique features?
Quibi deserves some credit for trying something brand new
Netflix launched way back in 1997. Michael Jordan was still a superstar back then! Some of you reading this were not born yet. There are almost 200 million subscribers, and for anyone who has seen Stranger Things (mostly the first season), you know there are shows that are quite compelling. Netflix also pioneered binge watching with episodes that play continuously. So, Quibi has a lot of catching up to do. The ability to play videos in portrait without black bars is not going to lure people away from other media apps.
A few Quibi features do seem unique. One is called Turnstyle, which lets you watch in portrait mode and then switch to landscape without interruption. With most apps, portrait mode shows massive black bars at the top and bottom of a widescreen video. In portrait, an indicator showing how much time is left moves to the side of the screen.
Out of the gate, Quibi does let you download shows for later viewing and the interface is fairly easy to use. There’s not much to the app. There are no user profiles that allow each family member to browse, queue up shows or track previous viewings.
What about the Quibi content?
A few unique and compelling shows show some promise … sort of
Once the novelty of being able to watch in portrait mode wears off, you’ll notice that Quibi is an extremely well-funded app with A-list stars. One of the best shows called Most Dangerous Game stars Liam Hemsworth. A comedy called Dummy stars none other than Anna Kendrick. These people must have been paid a fortune.
In the middle of the pack you’ll find a few oddities. Murder House Flip is a comedy that seems like a realty show. Reno 911 makes a non-triumphant return (in a seventh season). Some of the comedies and “docuseries” shows are woefully forgettable.
Haters are going to hate, and Quibi gives them what they want—several of the reality shows and a few comedies are dreadfully bad. In The Fugitive starring Keifer Sutherland, there’s a line about “casualties are high and growing, survivors are low and shrinking.” Groan. Sure, the show Most Dangerous Game is fun and suspenseful, but a similar line (“Seems like the money’s been tight and the luck’s been bad”) makes us think it’s the same screenwriter. Most of the reality shows seem a little rushed. There’s no must-watch television in the order of The Mandalorian on Disney+ here.
How does the Quibi quality compare?
So about the visual and sound quality: it’s just okay
We had no issues streaming with Quibi, both on a Google Pixel 4 and an Apple iPhone 11. Streaming from both phones to a HiSense smart television worked perfectly, minus the previously mentioned glitch where an unlocked phone won’t auto-play an episode correctly. (We checked with Quibi about this but no response yet.)
The truth is, Quibi quality (there’s a fun phrase to say out loud—makes us sound like a duck) will depend greatly on your device. On many Samsung smartphones with a bright and colorful screen, suddenly Liam Hemsworth looks ultrarealistic. On older phones with a terrible screen and poor audio quality, well—let’s just say everything looks dated.
Recap: Is Quibi worth it?
Invest in the potential and wait out the long ride? Maybe.
We mentioned how there are some big names making shows for Quibi. We hope those shows don’t get canceled and this $2 billion video-binge experiment doesn’t collapse in a heap like an inebriated A-list celebrity in one of their shows. We really do! Because at the end of the day, the TV streaming market has become a tangled mess of niche programming. No more channels for any of us, it’s all about which apps you like.
Maybe Quibi will keep experimenting with short format episodes, although there are rumors the company is planning to make normal shows at some point. Maybe they will keep signing on the massive stars who jump ship from lesser streaming apps (Crackle, you’ve been warned). Maybe someday we’ll all watch two minutes episodic videos some day, who knows? Of course, we’ve just described YouTube.
The problem is that Quibi is not attracting enough attention. It shows promise, because of the extreme funding, but for now, it’s a hard pass. You might like a few of the shows, but there’s nothing here that will make you want to keep paying every month.
What do you think?
Do you have Quibi? What’s your experience with it been? Or do you like a different streaming service better? Drop us a comment below!