The star-studded mobile streaming servicewent live Monday in the US and Canada, along with a slate of exclusive new dramas, comedies, reality shows, talk shows and news programs. So far that sounds a lot like Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services, but Quibi has a couple of twists. First: Every episode is just 10 minutes or less. Second: You watch on your phone, but you can’t watch on your TV.
- Includes 90-day free trial
- Flipping between landscape and portrait model works well
- Lots of variety in the initial shows
- Can’t watch on TVs at all
- App lacks user profiles
- Tough to justify $5 price when there’s YouTube for free
Quibi is making ajust as the world hunkers down at home under quarantines. Celebrities including Reese Witherspoon, Chrissy Teigen, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Lopez and Chance the Rapper are involved as stars, producers and presenters of the short-form shows on the service. A subscription costs $4.99 a month with ads, $7.99 ad-free, comes with an and costs nothing for .
Should you give Quibi a try? Here’s what you need to know about actually using the new streaming service.
Can you really watch in portrait and landscape mode?
Perhaps Quibi’s most impressive feature is called Turnstyle, which lets you flip between portrait and landscape mode and have the show automatically adapt to fit either in full screen. On my iPhone 11 ($699 at Apple) and Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus ($700 at Amazon), this worked seamlessly. Landscape gave a wider screen view, where you could see more of the room a given character was in, while portrait mode featured more close-ups of characters’ faces.
Some shows will use Turnstyle in interesting ways: For example, an upcoming thriller series called Nest will show the filmed action of the story when you watch in landscape, but will let you see what’s happening on a character’s device when you switch to portrait, according to the company.
Read more: Best live TV streaming service for cord-cutters in 2020
What’s it like to use the Quibi app?
Quibi’s mobile app has a simple interface, similar at first glance to the Netflix and Hulu apps. On the home tab, called For You, you’ll scroll through different shows, see previews and choose what to watch. It’s kind of like your Instagram feed. At the bottom of the screen you’ll find tabs titled Browse (for searching shows by name or genre), Following (where you can add shows you want to follow) and Downloads.
One of the biggest issues a mobile streaming service has to deal with is data usage. In the Settings tab at the top right corner of the app, you can toggle on “minimize data use” to reduce video and download quality. You can also set the app to download shows only when connected to Wi-Fi, and to change your video streaming and download quality.
Tap a show to immediately start watching, or tap the three dots next to it to see all the available episodes, the cast and crew, and to follow, download or share. When you start a show, you can fast-forward or rewind, turn on closed captioning or change the language, or share what you’re watching via text, email or any other means.
In the version of the subscription with ads, I saw one ad, of 15 seconds or less, before each show started.
Lefties may have a reason to celebrate: You can change your preferences to “left-handed mode,” which I haven’t seen in many other streaming apps, but feeds into Quibi’s goal of being a comfortable mobile platform.
While the app works just fine, I do have a few Quibi quibbles (I’ll see myself out). One major downside is that unlike other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, Quibi does not let you create profiles for different users. You can sign into the app on different devices with the same account, but there’s no way to separate the content you’re watching from, say, your spouse’s or kid’s.
The biggest issue, though, is that Quibi is purely an app for your phone — there’s no option to stream shows on an Apple TV ($179 at Apple), Roku or Amazon Fire Stick TV, or even through Chromecast, AirPlay or a web browser. With shows that look to have a pretty high production value and big-name stars, I’d like the option to be able to throw them up on my TV screen. Company executives have said that it will widen device support to larger screens like TVs based on data once subscribers start actually using the service, so it’s possible that will happen in the near future.
How does Quibi compare to the other streaming services?
Here’s how Quibi stacks up against competitors like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu in terms of price, top titles and features:
|Quibi||Netflix||Amazon Prime Video||Hulu||Disney Plus|
|Monthly price (US)||Basic $4.99 with ads, ad-free for $7.99||Starts at $8.99||$8.99 (or included with $119 a year Prime membership)||Basic $6.99 with ads, ad-free Premium for $11.99, Live TV for $55||$6.99|
|Top titles||Chrissy’s Court, Survive, Most Dangerous Game, Punk’d||Stranger Things, The Office, Breaking Bad, 13 Reasons Why||Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Hunters, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, The Big Sick||Handmaid’s Tale, Catch-22, Lost, Bob’s Burgers||The Mandalorian, Avengers Endgame, Toy Story, The Simpsons|
|Can watch on TVs||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Number of streams||1||1 (2 for Standard, 4 on Premium)||2||2 (Unlimited with Live TV + $10 add-on)||4|
|4K HDR available||No||Yes (on Premium plan)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
What are the shows like?
Quibi plans to release 175 new shows in its first year, with at least 25 new episodes coming every weekday. Twenty-five scripted, unscripted and documentary shows were available at launch, and several other “daily essentials” — which appear to be podcast-like news shows and talk shows.
I watched the first episode of a few Quibi shows: The dramas Survive and Most Dangerous Game and the comedy Flipped, which Quibi calls Movies in Chapters, as well as the reality shows Punk’d and Chrissy’s Court, and the news show Around the World by BBC News.
I found the comedies and reality shows to fit the format better than the dramas — probably because I’ve been primed to watch short, comedic things on YouTube. Reviving MTV’s Punk’d into six-minute episodes where we can watch Chance the Rapper prank celebrities such as Megan Thee Stallion and Adam Devine is a fun idea and perfect for short-form. Supermodel Chrissy Teigen’s Chrissy’s Court is basically Judge Judy for the Instagram age.
Flipped, a Funny or Die comedy starring Will Forte and Kaitlin Olson as a couple trying to become hosts of an HGTV-esque home-flipping show but end up working with drug cartels, feels like a shorter version of something you’d find on Comedy Central or Adult Swim. It was the only show I found myself wanting to watch another episode of right away, and did a solid job quickly building characters and including jokes.
The dramas are a more interesting experiment. Survive stars Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner as a suicidal woman who finds a new will to live after surviving a plane crash. Most Dangerous Game is a dystopian action-thriller starring Liam Hemsworth as a terminally ill person who accepts an offer to participate in a deadly game to provide for his family.
The premises and cinematography would suggest that these are prestige TV shows. But the pacing felt a little frantic — you’re fitting in the world-building, character development and conflict of a pilot episode that would usually take an hour into under 10 minutes.
While the ability to flip the screen with Turnstyle was cool, this felt more like taking a traditional show and breaking it into chunks, instead of creating something totally new and different. And maybe it’s because I’m over 30, but I actually like watching hour-long prestige dramas on my nice big TV — I don’t need them in small chunks on my small phone screen.
The service promises new episodes of shows every weekday.
Should you try Quibi?
There’s nothing really wrong with Quibi — it has a clean, user-friendly interface, and its short-form shows are interesting to check out purely from an experimental point of view. While the dramas I watched didn’t do much for me, the comedy and reality shows were fun, and the news shows were solid sources of information.
The thing is, I already have YouTube and plenty of other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu where I can find just about any drama, comedy or news show I would want to watch anyway — especially while everyone is quarantined, and not necessarily looking for content to watch on the go. I don’t foresee myself signing up for Quibi long-term, unless some of the shows prove to be breakout hits, and I can watch them on my TV screen instead of my phone.
That being said, it doesn’t hurt to sign up for the— check out the shows and see if you like the format enough to keep subscribing.