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Editor’s note: In October of 2020, Quibi announced that it would be shutting down. While our review didn’t go easy on Quibi, we’re always sorry to see streaming services go! On the bright side, some other great streaming services are still around. If you’re interested in a low-cost Quibi competitor, check out our Apple TV+ review or our Peacock review. You can also still read our Quibi review below.

There's no other streaming service quite like Quibi. Quibi asks if streaming services really need TV screens at all. It asks whether we really need TV show episodes to be a half-hour or an hour long, or if we might be better off with shorter ones. These are good questions, and now we have one: Is Quibi any good, or what? In this Quibi review, we'll tell you.

In our trials, we found ourselves excited by Quibi’s ideas but disappointed in their execution. Quibi is so committed to its clever and disruptive ideas that it ignores some of the things that we already love about streaming services. It’s true that we could use better streaming apps on mobile devices, but that doesn’t mean that we never want to use our TVs. And it’s true that TV show episodes shouldn’t always have to be a half-hour or an hour long, but that doesn’t mean that we always want them to be five or 10 minutes long, either. Sometimes, Quibi feels like a service imprisoned by its own cool ideas. The fact that the new original shows are mediocre (or worse) doesn't help much, either.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Smooth mobile experience
  • Ability to watch in landscape or portrait is neat
  • Short-form videos are a cool idea

Cons:

  • Major platform support issues, including lack of Roku and Fire TV apps
  • Weak original content slate
  • Lack of full-length movies and shows is limiting

Quibi Review

User experience

Using Quibi, you can’t miss the fact that it’s designed to be a mobile service all the way. For starters, there’s literally no way to use the app on your TV: There’s no support for Roku, Fire TV, or any of our other favorite streaming devices and platforms. We have to use it on a smartphone (or a tablet, but Quibi's mobile app is optimized for smartphones). Since launching as a mobile-only service, Quibi has added Chromecast support, but that's the only way to break out of the smartphone-only norm.

Quibi is a mobile-focused short-form streaming service

This frustrated me right away, but there is a cool flip side to the equation: There are some nice little quality-of-life details built for the mobile experience. The most obvious and most interesting of the mobile-focused features is the fact that you can watch Quibi videos in either landscape or portrait mode. If you rotate your phone, you get the same content cropped to the new aspect ratio. Quibi calls the feature “Turnstyle.”

To be honest, though, I think that seems cooler in theory than it does in practice. Shooting movies and TV shows in this way must be really limiting — basically, it just means that filmmakers can’t make full use of the screen. There can’t be anything essential going on in the areas of the screen that would be cropped out in portrait mode, or the content wouldn’t make sense to some Quibi viewers. In practice, this means that a lot of videos on Quibi feel like vertical videos with some bland decor on either side of them.

Quibi vertical orientation
You can watch Quibi in portrait mode, or rotate it…
Quibi in horizontal mode
…but switching to landscape mode rarely reveals anything interesting.

The idea isn’t inherently bad. In the hands of a daring director, it could be interesting — or maybe even interactive, if the viewer were encouraged to move the screen for different scenes. But that’s not the reality on Quibi right now.

The in-app menus are designed for smartphones, too. They're pretty simple. When I open the app, Quibi hits me with a “Today for you” recommendation. I can head to the “Browse” tab for a more typical sort-and-search approach to finding something to watch, or I can check my “Following” tab for the favorites I've marked or the “Downloads” tab for videos I've saved.

It's hard to view much at once on a small screen, and Quibi doesn't always try. The “Browse” tab has rows of content, but other areas just take up the whole screen with one recommendation at a time, leaving me to scroll through one by one.

Quibi review - Quibi's app (iOS)

The app works pretty well, but it does have some quirks. At one point during my testing, I exited a show and tried to find something else, but the audio from the show I'd closed kept playing. The audio stayed on even when I started a new show, overlapping with the new show's dialogue and sound effects. I had to quit the app to fix the issue.

That was the only glitchy moment I had with Quibi. The experience was mostly smooth and straightforward. It wasn't anything special, though.

Content

Quibi is unusual in a few ways, but the big difference between the service and its competitors is the content. We’re used to seeing pretty familiar types of videos on services like Netflix and Hulu. There are movies, which are long-form videos of the sort that we’re used to from movie theaters. We get shows, too, which are either old TV shows or new streaming equivalents, and which typically run either about a half-hour long or about an hour long. But Quibi doesn’t have any of this!

Quibi’s whole schtick is that it offers quick bites of video content — “Quibis,” if you will — to viewers on the go. Quibi shows ignore the old “hour or half-hour” norm for episodes and make their episodes’ running times ten minutes or fewer.

You can still watch for more than ten minutes, obviously (just play the next episode and keep binging), but the episodes individually are always short.

They’re also always relatively new. Quibi isn’t interested in those old half-hour sitcoms, so it’s filling its library with brand-new Quibi originals that fit the special short-form requirement.

Quibi originals come from all sorts of different content partners, some of which we know pretty well. Disney, for example, is working with Quibi on shows like ESPN’s The Replay.

Quibi does offer some “longer” content in the form of “Movies in Chapters.” Taking a page (get it?) from novels, Quibi seems to figure that its short format can work just fine for full-length movies as long as the action is divided up into short episodes. Of course, that kind of blurs the line between “movie” and “miniseries,” but what’s important is that you enjoy it, right?

Which begs the question: Will you enjoy these shows and “Movies in Chapters?”

Well, we're really here to talk about the app and the service, not to play Ebert. But I should probably warn you: The shows on Quibi aren’t that great. I'm not the only one who thinks so, either. The entertainment critics who specialize in reviewing movies and TV shows like the ones on Quibi have been pretty unimpressed, too.

Dummy on Quibi
Dummy is a show about a sex doll that can talk, and it is even worse than it sounds.

Part of the problem here is that Quibi only has original content (or semi-original content, like Punk’d, which is a revival of an MTV show). If you don’t like Netflix originals, then you can still be very happy watching Netflix. You could even enjoy HBO Max without liking HBO original content, because that service has lots of great licensed movies to watch. But Quibi is all-in on its original content — and, like we said, we weren’t all that impressed. Content seems to be a weak spot for Quibi, at least for now.

Streaming quality

In my trials, Quibi streamed reliably on Wi-Fi and mobile connections. The stream stayed strong and consistent on Chromecast, too. Quibi’s videos are available in up to 1080p HD.

The lack of 4K support isn’t a big deal given that Quibi is so mobile-focused. When the screen you’re watching on is only a few inches wide, 1080 pixels is plenty — the pixels are so small that the image is going to look very sharp to the naked eye even if it’s not 4,000 pixels across. You’d have to get pretty close to your phone screen to start complaining about not having enough of those little dots (don’t do it, it’s bad for your eyes).

Quibi auto-play
Quibi will auto-play the next episode of whatever you're streaming.

Quibi also lets us download videos for later viewing offline. This feature is a nice perk for viewers who plan ahead, though it’s a bit undermined by just how short the videos are (if you’re on a two-hour plane ride, for example, you could either download either one Netflix movie or a dozen “Quibis” — one of those options seems simpler than the other). Downloads are quick and easy, and playback on downloaded videos is as flawless as you’d expect.

Platform Support

Quibi’s platform support is a little weird, and that’s by design. We usually expect to use our streaming services on our TV screens just as easily as we use them on our mobile devices or computers. But Quibi is all about the mobile experience. Quibi launched on mobile devices only — and even the mobile apps were optimized specifically for smartphones (rather than tablets).

The mobile-only idea seems like a bad idea. Optimizing for mobile viewing is nice, but why would a service refuse to let us watch on our TV screen at all? It’s an especially big problem given that Quibi launched in the middle of a pandemic, when so many people are stuck at home watching TV instead of rushing around trying to steal a few moments to stream video on their phones. Quibi seems to have figured out that this is a problem. The service will reportedly add more platform support and make it easier for us all to watch Quibi shows at home.

For now, though, the platform support lineup is pretty grim. Quibi works on iOS, Android, and Chromecast. For now, that’s it.

This makes Quibi’s platform support a big negative for us. Hopefully, Quibi will fix things up soon.

Price

How much does Quibi cost? Not much, happily.

You can subscribe to Quibi for $4.99 per month. That will give you unlimited access to all the “Quibis” you crave, but it will include ads, too.

If you want to ditch the ads, you’ll need to opt for the pricier ad-free subscription instead. That one costs $7.99 per month.

We were happy to see that Quibi offers a very generous free trial. Sign up for Quibi’s free trial offer, and you’ll get two weeks’ worth of the service for free. It’s a risk-free trial, and you can cancel at any time.

Verdict

Quibi has some pretty exciting ideas that could liberate streaming from some of its bad habits. But Quibi ends up feeling less free than the competition, because it’s too obsessed with its own ideas. Rather than add a great mobile experience, Quibi subtracts a good TV experience and goes mobile-only. Quibi’s brilliant screen-turning feature could be a tool for innovation, but it usually just limits its own shows’ cinematography. And the short-form “Quibis” are a welcome change at first, but become as frustrating as the half-hour and hour-long standards once you get used to them.

All of this would be a lot less frustrating if Quibi was full of interesting new content. But content is where Quibi is weakest. No matter how many great ideas a service has, we can’t get excited about watching weak programming.

For now, we can’t recommend Quibi. Hopefully, that will change as Quibi patches its holes and ads more innovative content. We’ll have to wait and see.