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Quibi Review: The Short-Form Streaming Service That Fell Short

Quibi might be capable of delivering headlines, but the mobile-only format fails to deliver. In its current form, Quibi proves to be an annoying and limiting experience that’s currently not worth your time or money.

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Quibi

$4.99/$7.99
2.75

Experience

2.0/5

Content

3.0/5

Features

2.5/5

Price

3.5/5

Pros

  • Bite-sized episodes
  • Ad-free option available
  • Ads not intrusive
  • Watch in landscape or portrait

Cons

  • No TV or browser support
  • Limited movies and shows
  • Format reduces experience
  • Limited additional features

Quibi is the latest video streaming service to hit the market and has already attracted much attention and debate. However, Quibi fails to live up to even the simplest of expectations. While it does deliver on its promise of short videos, the service fails when it comes to delivering a quality experience, and to a degree, quality stories.

Is Quibi worth your time and money? No, it is not. At least, not right now and in its current form. If the service evolves and improves then we’ll update this review accordingly. In the meantime, even at $5 per month, this is a streaming service to skip.

What is Quibi?

Besides being a new service in terms of release date, Quibi is new in other ways. Therefore, it is worth taking a moment to fully explain what Quibi is, and what it offers.

Unlike most streaming services, Quibi is a mobile-only product. It is not just optimized for streaming on phone, but that’s currently the only way you can use the service. What’s more, this emphasis results in almost everything about Quibi being tailored towards mobile, and not always for the better.

Movies and shows are broken down into bite-sized videos. Each episode is under ten minutes long and the company suggests this makes the service ideal to fill gaps in someone’s daily schedule. For example, when commuting, waiting at the doctor’s office, sitting on the toilet, and so on.

Quibi launched with 41 shows although only 24 of these are serial, with the remaining 17 classified as “Daily Essentials.” This latter camp mainly includes news and lifestyle-based content making them more relevant to today and not necessarily episodes you can watch at a later time. While limited on content, the company does plan on massively expanding the lineup over time and claims to be adding “new shows every week.”

How much is Quibi?

Quibi is fairly simple in its pricing which should make choosing the right plan straightforward. Here are your current choices.

One of the major benefits for new customers is Quibi currently offers a 90-day free trial. This should easily be long enough to see if this is the right service for you.

Quibi app hampered by limited content

With Quibi being a mobile-first service, a lot of time and effort has gone into the app experience. However, that’s not to say it is a great experience overall. The app is easy enough to use, but feels like a time-consuming activity.

The interface is primarily made up of four main sections: For You, Browse, Following and Downloads. The last two are simple enough and work as expected with Downloads where shows are stored for offline viewing, and Following the app’s version of a watch list. The fact that you can download episodes is a big positive and especially with this being a mobile-first product as you can download on Wi-Fi when home and then watch on-the-go without consuming as much data.

The ‘For You’ section utilizes a card-based UI where each show’s card occupies the entire screen. Essentially, you can only see the details for one show and have to swipe each time to see another show or movie.

Quibi For You
Quibi app: For You

For You is a recommendation-based section and the idea is that it will prioritize content it thinks you want to watch. However, it is currently not as useful as it should be. After watching a few shows in their entirety (and all being of the same genre/type), the For You section didn’t really appear to understand the type of content I wanted to watch. Whether this is simply the result of a lack of shows for the algorithm to pick from remains to be seen, but it didn’t feel useful.

If anything, all the For You section did was highlight new episodes of movies and shows I had already watched. Again, while that might seem useful, the overlap with “Following” made this (or Following) pointless. Overall, pointless was the general feeling with this section, and that’s a shame considering it’s effectively the home screen.

The ‘Browse’ section is better in design with shows displayed in smaller cards allowing for an experience that’s more similar to Netflix.

Quibi Browse section with trending
Quibi app: Browse

Users swipe down to move through categories, and swipe left to cycle through category shows.

Quibi Browse section
Quibi app: More to Explore

While better, this section is still limited in its use. Browse prioritizes “trending” content which right now is the sum of the most high-profile Quibi shows and movies – the ones you already know about. Other top-tier categories include News, Lifestyle, New Releases, Continue Watching and More to Explore, in order, although they once again are limited to highlighting the same shows.

Basically, wherever you go, you’re directed to the same videos and that’s a major problem with Quibi. Again, this might change in the future, but that’s the situation with the service right now. However, the limited content is not the main issue that degrades the Quibi experience, the lack of device support is.

Quibi proves mobile-only is a mistake

Besides feeling like a time-consuming process to find content, Quibi’s fundamental flaw is its main selling point: a mobile-only design. The company appears to have gone out of its way to ensure you can’t watch content in any way other than on a mobile device. The lack of support for other devices, including the TV, is an unforgivable flaw.

Not only can you not download the app on a TV, or watch through a web browser on your PC, but the service even lacks AirPlay and Chromecast support. Likewise, the app also does not support Android’s picture-in-picture feature, so not only do you have to watch on your mobile, but you cannot do anything else on you smartphone at the same time.

There’s been a lot of talk recently on the fact that you cannot screenshot content either, and while a valid criticism, it is not one that matters. As you can’t exactly do anything with your phone while using Quibi, sharing a screenshot is the least of the problems. Essentially, every time you use Quibi, you are rendering your phone useless. For a service that’s designed to be modern and mobile-conscious, it is not nearly as modern as it thinks it is.

Short videos, but Quibi is equally short on quality content

With the service being so new, it is hard to really judge Quibi content too harshly. However, as of right now, this is limited service that’s massively lacking in content.

While the quantity will improve over time, Quibi appears to be banking on quality to make the service appealing. Yet, it’s not clear where that quality is. Yes, Quibi has gone all-in on star power and pretty much every show or movie has at least one major name either in front or behind the camera. In this sense, Quibi looks like a premium service but the quality doesn’t really deliver when it comes to the actual product.

That’s not to say the movies and shows are bad, or lacking in production quality, it is just they don’t feel like great or must-see shows. Some on social media might disagree with many jumping in on the hashtags for a specific movie or show, but the reality is the content since launch has been mediocre.

Adding to the situation is Quibi’s big bite-sized selling point. Sure, if you have ten minutes to kill then maybe an episode of something will work, but with YouTube, Dailymotion, TikTok, and just about the whole internet at your disposal, why you should pay Quibi for the privilege is a mystery.

What the 10-minute episode cap does do is reduce the quality of the experience and in particular, the quality of movies. For example, Quibi markets the service as one to fill-in time, but Quibi has adopted the industry-old cliffhanger trick. As a result, each movie segment typically ends on some big or major note designed to make you quickly hit the ‘play next episode’ button. Not that you need to as the app also uses the other industry trick of giving you only a few seconds before the next episode autoplays.

While autoplay and cliffhangers can add to a streaming experience, they are inherently designed for binging, and surely that’s at odds with Quibi’s premise? Short video clips, designed for watching on your phone, while on the go is not how you binge.

Furthermore, with a cliffhanger every ten minutes (it’s really about eight minutes), the flow of the content when binged feels off. The content feels more about making something happen every few minutes than developing decent plots or character development. To the point where any of the movies on Quibi would be far more enjoyable if they didn’t follow the bite-sized format.

Premium service without premium features

Quibi does not come with many additional features. Arguably, the only real feature is Turnstyle and even that’s a letdown. Basically, Turnstyle allows you to watch content in either portrait or landscape orientation. Regardless of your preference, all the content has been recorded and optimized for both.

Quibi Turnstyle
Watch in landscape or portrait with Turnstyle

In principle, this is a good feature, and works just as described. However, after extensively testing the feature out, it remains to be seen how useful it really is. To compensate for the portrait view, Quibi tends to focus on faces and close-up shots. The problem with this is a lot of the detail in the scene is lost in the process, making portrait a lesser experience compared to landscape. While it is a positive that you can watch in portrait if you want, the reality is you probably won’t want to most of the time.

Besides Turnstyle, there’s not much going on with the app. Each show does provide cast and crew information, and for most stars, there’s even quick links to IMDb and social media profiles.

Quibi show Cast listings
Quibi app: Crew & cast info

From a design point of view, these external links are a prime example of how Quibi is getting things wrong. For instance, although informative, clicking any of these links takes you straight out of the Quibi app. This is not a feature you’ll generally see used by other streaming services, and there’s a good reason for that – they encourage you to stay in their app and watch.

Another aspect to be aware of is the impact on battery life. With users forced to watch content on smartphones, it is unfortunate that there appears to be little effort made to reduce battery consumption.

Here’s a real-world example of the type of battery experience you can expect from Quibi: With the smartphone’s brightness set to automatic (presumably how most people use their phones), the entirety of Survived was watched. There were twelve episodes which took around one hour and fifty minutes to get through. In this time, the app consumed 21 percent of the phone’s battery.

In another example, seven episodes of Flipped were watched, totaling 58 minutes. During this time, 12 percent of the battery depleted. Both examples suggest that Quibi roughly consumed around 12 percent per hour when used on Wi-Fi.

Considering the phone is the only way to watch content, and the fact you cannot do anything else with your phone during the time, this is not the sort of streaming service you’ll want to binge. That is, unless the smartphone is on charge – even though connected to a charger is not exactly what the streaming service is designed for.

Cheap, but not cheap enough

With any streaming service, price is key. On the surface, Quibi seems to be attempting to get this right, compared to other services. For example, the $7.99 ad-free experience is there for those who want it, while those looking to save on the cost can opt for the ‘with ads’ version, priced at $4.99 per month.

Here’s how Quibi’s price compares to major streaming services:

Quibi$4.99 / $7.99
Apple TV+ $4.99
Disney+$6.99
HBO / Max $14.99
Hulu$5.99 / $11.99
Netflix$8.99 / $12.99 / $15.99
PeacockFree / $4.99 / $9.99

The ad-supported version is actually much better than it probably should be. For example, ads are very short and only displayed at the start of an episode. Due to this, most people should definitely opt for the ad-supported version over the ad-free option as the impact of the ads is very minimal. Although, it is worth keeping in mind that with episodes being so short, this does mean at least one ad is shown every 5-9 minutes.

Overall, the price is right for a new streaming service, but when it comes to this specific streaming service, it still feels too high. If Quibi was free and totally dependent on ads, then it would be a much better proposition.

With limited content, device support, and ads, even at $5 per month, this is a service most consumers should probably avoid. For example, Hulu’s ad-supported tier is $1 more and offers considerably more content and a better user experience.

Bottom line: Don’t bother with Quibi… for now

Quibi has two major problems right now. The first is the lack of content with a limited number of shows and movies to suit each user. It seems unlikely everyone will want to watch everything and this means each user only has so many movies and shows to choose from. This issue might be ironed out over time.

The second issue is far more fundamental and devastating. Focusing so intensely on a mobile experience does not add to the service- it takes away from it. Until Quibi adds non-mobile device support, it is impossible to recommend the streaming service, and especially at a minimum of $5 per month.

Of course, the moment Quibi does lessen the dependency on smartphones, it will be helping to kill off the very reason the service was supposedly created in the first place.

John Finn

By John Finn

John started Streaming Clarity to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been writing about technology and TV-related services and devices since 2014 and believes the best streaming approach is to bounce between services as needed. Contact John via email at john@streamingclarity.com or on Twitter

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