May 22, 2024


Sapiens Digital

Quibi – Review 2020 – PCMag Asia

Most original shows on on-demand services follow a similar structure:
42- to 60-minute episodes with 10 or 12 episodes per season. Seasons are either released
all at once or over several months with new episodes every week. Quibi, a new, mobile-only video streaming service,
goes a different route. It releases shows in bite-sized bits every day,
blanketing you with a constant stream of content. Judging by the initial
release, however, the structure of episodes does not work equally well across all genres. What’s more, the service is missing expected features such as support for
simultaneous streams, account profiles, and parental controls. We would also
like to see the ability to watch on bigger screens, too. 

What Can I Watch on Quibi?

For the full details on this new service, read our feature on what you need to
know about Quibi
. The most important thing to know is that Quibi specializes in short-length video content.
On the service, you’ll find news shows from sources such as BBC News (Around
the World
), ESPN (The Replay), NBC News (Morning Report), Telemundo (Pulso
) and The Weather Channel (Weather Today). Note that the Weather Channel’s
content is not localized, which seems like a missed opportunity. I did find
ESPN’s The Replay to be a good recap on an admittedly slow sports news day.

Quibi's For You and Browse sections on Android app

There’s also lifestyle content from Gimlet
podcast hosts Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings (The Nod), Rotten Tomatoes (Fresh
), The Dodo (All The Feels), and The Daily Chill, which specializes in
showing nature scenery and ASMR audio. The Daily Chill was indeed a calming
visual and audio experience, though I’m sure I could find similar content for free
on YouTube and Vimeo. Plus, there are already tons of meditation apps for both Android and iOS. Still, it’s a handy addition for stressful times. 

In terms of more traditional productions, there’s Flipped, a comedy about a house-flipping duo renovating a Mexican
Drug Cartel’s mansions starring Will Forte and Kaitlin Olson; Most Dangerous Game, in which a
desperate Liam Hemsworth must fight for his survival; Survive, a drama about two survivors of a plane crash starring
Sophie Turner and Corey Hawkins; and When
The Streetlights Go On
, a drama about a double homicide in a small
Midwestern suburb, featuring Chosen Jacobs, Sophie Thatcher, Mark Duplass, and
Queen Latifah. Quibi also includes other star-studded shows such as Chrissy’s Court with Chrissy Teigen, Fierce Queens with Reese Witherspoon, I Promise with LeBron James, Punk’d with Chance the Rapper, and Thanks A Million (which stars various
A-list celebrities, such as Aaron Rodgers, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Hart, and
Kristen Bell).

There are too many titles to list, but you can explore them on
Quibi’s website, even without an account. In total, Quibi has around 18 Daily Essentials
(the news and entertainment productions) and 24 shows.

Does Quibi’s Plan Add up? 

As with any service just starting out, Quibi must cater to a wide
audience in the hopes that some fans of each genre stick around. The big-name
celebrities might help it gain its feet, too. But, right now, Quibi has the
same problem that Apple TV+ did when it launched, in that it is starting from
scratch. There’s no back catalog to help sustain Quibi in the meantime,
but its aggressive release schedule should help build out its library quickly. Quibi
does have a much larger library of content starting out than Apple TV+ did, which bodes well.

Let’s do some math about Quibi’s daily (weekday) release schedule. A
typical season of an original Amazon Prime Video show, such as Patriot, for instance, includes 10
episodes of about 50 minutes each. That’s 500 minutes of content, or slightly
less than 8.5 hours. Let’s assume that Survive is a show of similar length and Quibi is just releasing it
bit by bit. Assuming each day’s release is about eight minutes, that’s enough
content to keep premiering a new part of the show for about 62 days, or a little
over three months (not counting weekends).

With concurrent scheduling and
launches of content, Quibi could very well maintain this trajectory. However,
62 weekdays (just over 12 weeks!) is a long time to engage an audience that is probably used to
binge-watching content. Then again, I’m sure everyone spends at least
20 minutes using the same three or four apps every day. What’s one more? At
least with other services that only release episodes over an extended
time frame, such as HBO Now with Westworld,
the episodes are much longer and thus, more engaging.

So in practice, how does Quibi’s release schedule pan out? For some
content, such as the daily news briefs, it works fine. For the long-form content,
the viewing experience feels choppy. Most
Dangerous Game
, for example, which had several episodes at launch, felt a
bit disjointed, and the pacing either felt artificially rushed or drawn out to
match the episode length. Having to watch the title screen every 10 minutes or
so does not help matters either. Future programs will hopefully learn from early releases and make better use of the format.

Quibi seems to encourage you to watch
multiple things every day, which just makes it more difficult to stay invested
in a single series. Trying to keep track of different characters and plots is
one thing, but with new show launches every week, the prospect of keeping up
with everything seems overwhelming. With other services, I appreciate the option
of watching one season or show in its entirety and then moving on to something

Cost and Platform

Quibi is either $4.99 per month with ads or $7.99 per month without them.
If you sign up within a month of the service’s launch, you can get a 90-day
trial. It is unclear how long a trial will be after this initial release period

The service is cheaper than most competitors, though it matches
Apple TV+’s $4.99-per-month price and comes in under Disney+’s $6.99-per-month
fee. Of course, neither Apple TV+ nor Disney+ have ads. CBS All Access’s and Hulu’s ad-supported tier starts at $5.99 per month. More premium on-demand services are
more expensive. Amazon Prime Video and Netflix both start at $8.99 per month,
though we recommend that most people choose Netflix’s technically superior Standard plan, which
costs $12.99 per month.

Web screenshot of top Quibi shows

Quibi is only available on Android and iOS devices. That means there’s
no web app, nothing for media streaming devices, and no support for gaming
consoles. There’s also no in-app option to cast a stream to another device, so
there’s no obvious way to watch Quibi’s content on a larger screen, such as a
TV. Every other video streaming service we’ve reviewed offers much better
platform support. For instance, Quibi would be at home on a platform such as
the Nintendo Switch, given its portability.

Of course, everyone always has their phones with them, so this isn’t a
huge issue for when you are commuting or otherwise out of your home, especially
since Quibi’s show structure seems best suited to these situations. However,
when you are home on weekends or at night, the lack of an option to watch Quibi’s
shows on a larger screen becomes problematic. For example, it’s not ideal for
more than one person to watch something on a phone or tablet screen (a problem,
given that Quibi does not support simultaneous streams).

Mobile App Interface

I downloaded the Quibi app on a Google Pixel 3 running Android 10. The
app uses a sleek dark interface with white elements. The minimal aesthetic
helps Quibi’s content stand out on the apps, but navigation isn’t wholly
intuitive. You’ll need to back out of a lot of menus and pages, for instance,
since the bottom navigation bar isn’t always present. The bottom menu houses
four icons: For You, Search, Following, and Downloads. Your profile settings
are only available from the For You page, which is annoying. Much like the
navigation menu, it should appear on every page.

In the account section, you can change your profile and billing
information, as well as edit your notification and email preferences. There are also
several options related to streaming and data use, though these options could
be streamlined. For example, the Minimize Data Use option is redundant with settings
within the Video Quality and Downloads section. The Minimize Data Use toggle
just changes the selected options within that section. You can also set up
Quibi for left-handed use, which relocates the video progress bar to the
left-hand side of the screen when you are watching something in portrait
orientation. I’ll discuss the viewing experience in more detail in a later

The For You section highlights content that you may be interested in as
well as new episodes of programs you’re currently watching. I dislike that
video previews play automatically on this screen and would like the option to
turn them off. For a service so concerned about data saving settings, this
seems wasteful. Thankfully, the sound is disabled on these clips. I also
dislike the scrolling behavior of the For You section, since only one video
shows on the screen at a time. For a mobile-first service, this layout doesn’t
use the available screen space efficiently.

Screenshot of Quibi's action titles and Following secion on the Android app

If a show catches your interest, just tap on it to jump into playback,
or hit the ellipsis menu in the bottom right corner of the show thumbnail. From
this menu, you can view a description of the episode, go to the show’s details page,
follow the series, download the episode, or share it. The landing page for each
series shows a description at the top, along with the release schedule, plus a
list of all the available episodes below that. At the bottom, you can view the cast and crew. For well-known actors and actresses, you also see a short bio, plus any associated social media accounts. I would like to see
specific recommendations based on each show, but Quibi does not include such a

The Browse section gives you an overview of what you can expect to
watch on the service. The page breaks down into several categories of content,
such as New Releases, Daily Essential News, Daily Essentials Lifestyle,
Trending, Continue Watching, and More to Explore. The horizontally scrolling
galleries of content in this section make much better use of a mobile device’s
screen real estate. There is a search bar here too that works well. It
separates results into three tabs: Top Results, Shows, and Episodes. You can find results by searching for show titles, genres, and cast

I appreciate the Coming Soon to Quibi category in the More to Explore
section. Here, you can watch previews for upcoming shows. Oddly, when you tap
the Follow or Download Episode buttons, Quibi just downloads the trailer. I
expected the service to add the actual show to my Follow tab when it launches
and automatically download the first episode. One odd category of content is
Brand Spotlight, which is dedicated to sponsored content. At the time of
testing, I saw sections for trailers from Sony Pictures, plus sponsored content
from Secret Deodorant, Walmart, and SK-II.

The Following section allows you to organize all the content you want
to watch in one place. One useful feature is that you can control toggle
notifications on a per-show basis. Other video streaming services should add
this feature.

Playback Experience and Features

Quibi’s playback experience is top-notch.
Aside from standard playback controls, you get 10-second rewind and fast-forward
buttons, a Closed Captioning (CC) toggle, plus a segment selector on some
content for jumping to specific parts of a video. For example, ESPN’s The
structured the six-and-a-half-minute episode I watched into COVID-19 Fight, NBA 2K Tournament,
and Social Media. There’s also a share button in the
corner, which just opens up the default system sharing menu. Since Quibi, is
not free, the link it sends is only really useful for people who also have a
Quibi subscription. Since the service seems to have social ambitions, the
extent of these sharing options is disappointing.

One of Quibi’s most novel features is that videos play in full-screen
regardless of whether you have the screen in portrait or landscape orientation. Quibi just cuts off some content from the side. Most video-focused apps on mobile are moving towards the vertical video format, so this feature is forward-looking. That’s a cool trick and certainly helps Quibi from a usability standpoint in
less than ideal quarters outside the comfort of your home.

Photo of Quibi's Now Playing screen in portrait orientation

The ad experience on Quibi is actually reasonable. Ads only play at the
beginning of a show and the longest one I saw was only 15 seconds long. Many of
the commercials were even shorter. I did see many repeated advertisements
though. Hulu’s ad experience is much worse, since its ads are longer and repeat just
as often—the ad-free plan on Hulu is a must.  On Quibi, it’s not as big a deal.

Quibi only lets a single account-holder stream at a time, which is a
big drawback. There’s no way to control the streaming resolution from the
playback either, let alone see the actual resolution. You are forced between an Auto
and Data Saver streaming quality settings, as well as High and Standard options
for downloads. Videos did look crisp, though, and I had no problems with the
audio quality. I didn’t experience any lag when testing over my home Wi-Fi connection (140 Mbps download).

Quibi’s offline download feature works similarly to competitors’,
but with the advantage that its videos are so much smaller. Downloading and
storing a seven-minute video is a much more convenient process than doing so
for a full-length episode. However, there’s no equivalent to Netflix’s Smart
Downloads feature, which automatically downloads the next episode in the series
you are watching and deletes the one you just finished. Quibi’s Storage Viewer
option also just takes you to your device settings, while Netflix shows storage
levels within the app itself.

Accessibility and Parental

Quibi does include closed captions (at least for all the content I watched), with
both English and Spanish options. Still, this is extremely limited compared to the
subtitle language options that Apple TV+ offers. You also can’t customize the
appearance of subtitles, which is disappointing, especially since the default
text looks like a variant of comic sans. Some people might need to make the
font size larger, too, given how much smaller phone screens are than a desktop
monitor or TV.

Quibi does not have any parental control tools, which is problematic
since a lot of the content is likely not suitable for young children. Mature
content is even tagged as such, so it should not be a huge issue to add this
feature. Mostly every on-demand video streaming service we reviewed allows you
to restrict content by rating. Even Tubi, which is free, includes parental
control options. Quibi lacks multiple profiles per account,
another missed opportunity. New streaming services will live or die based on
the popularity of the content and community forums or even the ability to add
ratings or reviews to shows would help cultivate audiences. Many anime
streaming services
include community-aimed features.

Quibi and VPN

A VPN is an excellent tool for protecting yourself online, since it
creates an encrypted tunnel for your traffic between your computer and a server
operated by the VPN service. As a result, your ISP or a malicious actor on a
public network can’t peer in on your data. Another benefit of VPNs is that they
can spoof your location online. This last feature is potentially problematic
since video streaming services tend to include at least some region-locked

I had no trouble streaming content from Quibi while connected to a
US-based Mullvad VPN server. I also tried connecting to a server in Sweden, but
had no issues in that scenario either. Even if your VPN currently works with
all of your video streaming services now, know that it might not in the future.
Video streaming services continue to find new ways to detect and block VPN

Quibi Is Quirky

Quibi’s quick-clip structure surely works for some
genres such as national and sports news, but others, which require buy-in and
emotional investment from the audience, don’t do as well. Quibi also lacks expected features such as simultaneous streams
from the same account and profile options. However, Quibi’s playback experience is excellent and it does already have lots of big-name actors and actresses attached to shows. If one of these shows blows up in
popularity, these technical limitations won’t matter. Until that happens, you can
likely save your money, or at least just get the ad-supported version, since the commercials are not very intrusive.

Our Editors’ Choice, Netflix, offers a more established
service with top-notch content, all of which is also viewable on your phone (plus many other platforms). If
you want to watch live TV, Hulu and YouTube are our Editors’ Choice winners, thanks
to their broadly appealing lineups and excellent features.

Quibi Specs

Starting Price Free
Concurrent Streams 1
Live TV No
On-Demand Movies and TV Shows Yes
Original Programming Yes
Anime No
Ads Yes

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