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Review: Quartz – bite-sized news messenger bot

Text message style micro-news from Quartz

Price: Free
Version: 1.0
Size: 12.0 MB
Platform: iPhone
Developer: Quartz Media

Current affairs are pretty important, right? But making the time to read the news every day can be hard work – if only there was another way to stay up to date with minimum effort. Step forward Quartz, an affable news robot who can send you brief messages to outline the day’s top stories.


Most news stories fit into a single ‘page’ of messages

This new app comes from an existing digital-only news source; Quartz the website has birthed Quartz the app, featuring shorter, snappier articles and a completely fresh interface. Unlike most other news sites, this is not a straight port of the website for the smaller screen. It’s a reimagining of the news into a distinct format, promising to deliver “news in a whole new way.”

So what is this new format? It’s styled after the iOS Messages app, only instead of texting your friends, you’re receiving snappy news updates from a robot. Well, technically from a behind-the-scenes human news team, but that’s much less fun. It’s built as a friendly way to digest the news almost without noticing, and to some degree it works – after a quick headline tease, you’re offered a choice of replies, giving the ability to ask questions if you want to hear more. It’s a neat gimmick, and does feel a vaguely like chatting with a friend.


Messages make full use of emojis and GIFs, though it stops short of text speak

Unfortunately, the texting facade only goes so far; the pre-written responses are very limited. You’re given two options to every opening line: some variation of “tell me more,” and some variation of “no thanks.” We can understand why the options are this limited, but it’s still a shame that the messaging concept isn’t explored in a bit more depth.

The information presented is rarely more than a few short paragraphs, but is always clearly written and explains the key facts in a quick, concise manner. As well as text, you’ll also be sent relevant photos and animated GIFs which back up the story or add an amusing angle. It’s nice, and if a story piques your interest, you can click through to the source article for a longer read. It’s a fun way to stay up to date on global stories with just a few spare minutes throughout the day.


Clear, friendly notification options are always welcome

After a while you’ll notice that the app is brought to you by the new Mini. Ah, so that’s why it’s free. Luckily the in-line ads are pretty gentle and easily ignored. There’s also an intelligent opt-in notification system at play, giving you control over what you want to be bothered about. With notifications on it does feel a little like being sent personal news updates from a friend.

The app does run out of stories fairly quickly – fine for the bite-size sessions the app is intended for, but those hungry for current affairs won’t be sated by the meagre offerings here. If you’re a fan of the Quartz editorial style (“creative and intelligent journalism with a broad worldview”), you can read their full stories in the stock iOS News app – or on the website, which is remarkably well optimized for mobile.

If you prefer your news a little meatier, you probably don’t need this app – but for anyone who likes to be kept up to date with well-written snippets of interesting stuff you might otherwise miss, Quartz is certainly a fun solution.