Quartz’s news app is a hard sell. The program is literally deliver you news bits one at a time in an SMS format, complete with emojis and a UI that looks just like you’re texting someone. It’s a cool idea, but the mixed approach of placing emoji responses in with real hard-hitting news is odd, and I’m not sure what the target audience is.
What I do like about Quartz is that it takes mere seconds to setup, and doesn’t require a login. At the start you just flick off whether or not you want notifications, and the gimmick presents itself. Writers will provide you with a story, and if it interests you, you’ll select an emoji response (like a “tell me more” with the chin-rubbing face guy), or you can opt to go to the next story. That’s basically the app, give or take some quasi-interesting turns.
It probably sounds dumb to a lot of you on paper, but I actually bought into it somewhat. I like the idea of getting bite-sized news that I can engage with for a few minutes at a time, and then go about my day without getting overwhelmed by billions of stories and “breaking headlines” that usually involve movie stars and their daily habits.
For once I even enjoyed the alerts feature, as it provides cute little musings throughout the day. It sort of reminds me of those old Telnet programs way back in the dial-up era, where you could “talk” to an AI that had the appearance of sentience. Quartz partially sells this by having real writers provide the dialogue.
So if it looks like an SMS chat, how is it monetized? By way of fairly unobtrusive ads, and a sponsorship from MINI. Quartz is billed as an “ongoing conversation,” but you’re just conversing with pre-recorded dialogue and limited options, so it loses its luster after a few hours of use.
For those of you who are bored of the typical news outlets and want to be surprised, give it a shot. The execution is basically there for what it purports to be, I just wish there was a few more unique features.
Quartz is an iOS app that can be downloaded for free from the iTunes App Store.