The biggest news yesterday was Quibi’s launch. We have a full slate of coverage, from the stake setting to the CEO profile to reviews of the app and the shows. Quibi also went down briefly, so you know it was a real launch.
It occurs to me that a lot of tech right now involves startup companies just utterly struggling with issues related to delivering streaming video to your home rather than the encoding and bandwidth issues we used to deal with. We have different answers to all of the following video streaming questions during the pandemic: whether you want to watch it, if it’s safe to watch and be watched, and whether it’s moral to stream it in the first place.
Quibi has three months (the length of its free trial) to get you to watch “professional” video on your phone. Zoom has been in a perpetual scramble to address its myriad security issues — and I’d say it’s going only medium at best. Even Peloton couldn’t get it right, refusing to cancel live classes streamed from virtually empty rooms as an employee tested positive.
If video streaming stories are not your thing, we have reviews of actual gadgets, too, including the new Samsung Chromebook and Brydge iPad Keyboard. Oh, and the Final Fantasy VII Remake.
There’s been a lot of stuff to catch up on since the last newsletter, so I’ll just send you straight on to the links. Don’t forget: Tuesday.
Be good to each other out there.
┏ Can Meg Whitman outwit a pandemic with Quibi?. Elizabeth Lopatto hung out with CEO Meg Whitman literally and virtually, delivering this profile about what it’s like to launch an app you’re supposed to use on the subway or while waiting for coffee in a time when nobody is doing either of those things.
┏ Quibi is coming, with the worst — or maybe best — timing. Julia Alexander captures the problem perfectly: “Now Quibi has to compete on the couch.”
┏ Quibi app review: shifting landscape. Chris Welch reviews the app itself. I played around a little with this so-called “Turnstyle” feature and honestly all it did was stress me out. Constantly switching between portrait and landscape makes you wonder if you’re missing something in the other aspect ratio.
At launch, Quibi has delivered an app that is, in a word, fine. It works reliably, even if the user experience comes off as a little basic compared to Netflix and other streaming giants. When you rotate your device, Quibi automatically flips between landscape and portrait presentation modes, and both orientations have been factored into the creative process. You’ll notice different angles or shots when switching between them, and text / credits are also optimized for these back-and-forth changes.
┏ Quibi’s shows are fun, familiar, and a little forgettable. Here’s our review of some of the shows, too.
┏ Quibi experienced an outage on launch day. It was down for about an hour, which translates to about 6 quibis. We measure all time in quibis now, btw.
Did you know that “Zoom.com” is only one letter away from Zombocom? Welcome to Zombocom. The impossible is possible at Zombocom
Peloton does the wrong thing then it does the right thing
┏ Peloton won’t stop live classes, and now an employee has tested positive for COVID-19. Shot. Natt Garun reports on Peloton making a shortsighted decision.
┏ Peloton pauses April’s live classes after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. Chaser. Natt Garun reports on Peloton’s about face just days later.
┏ Brydge Pro Plus review: an almost awesome iPad laptop. Sam Byford reviews the keyboard that’s just slightly ahead of its time. Hopefully Apple and Brydge can figure out a way to give it full access to gestures. Actually, hopefully Apple just publishes a spec so anybody who makes Bluetooth trackpads can get access to gestures.
┏ Final Fantasy VII Remake is a thrilling, thoughtful take on a classic. Andrew Webster has the review:
There are some new aspects that feel unnecessary, moments that serve as filler, and areas where the game can be frustratingly dated. It’s messy and beautiful, thrilling and confusing — which is to say, the remake is 100 percent Final Fantasy VII.
┏ JBL’s Quantum One delivers a VR-like audio experience, minus the immersion. Using a gyroscope in the headphones to detect head movement and adjust the sound accordingly seems like a neat idea. But unless you have a massively wide monitor, how often are you turning your head when you are gaming?
┏ Samsung Galaxy Chromebook review: beautiful to a fault. Monica Chin on what is, to me, one of the biggest bummers of tech in early 2020. We’ve been waiting for twoish years for a true successor to the Pixelbook. This looks like that because this is that, but for whatever reason Samsung and Google overdid it on the screen, which just completely trashes battery life. What an unnecessary, unforced error.
┏ Asus’ Flip C436 Chromebook with Project Athena is now available, starting at $799. Obviously we need to review this, but I’m putting it here in this section since it seems like it could be a promising alternative to the above.
┏ TCL reveals prices and specs for its 10-Series smartphones. TCL’s big push this year is for you to know that TCL exists as its own brand and not just a white label for other brands. These phones look pretty good for the price — I’m honestly less worried about the processors than I am about the cameras.
┏ Google updates Pixel 4 with ‘eyes open’ fix for face unlock. I think it’s safe to say that face unlock has not been the smash hit home run Google was hoping for with the Pixel 4. No Android phones of note have rushed to match it. Maybe nobody but Google and Apple has the chops to pull off secure face unlock?
Wear a mask, don’t believe conspiracy theories
┏ Masks may be good, but the messaging around them has been very bad. Nicole Wetsman gets to the heart of why this whole mask thing has been a problem:
The problem is that messaging from public officials hasn’t done a good job of preparing people for those changes. Instead, the pandemic response in the US has been characterized by inconsistent messaging — notably, around masks and testing — without clear signals why policies might be changing.
┏ CDC recommends people wear cloth masks to block the spread of COVID-19. I admit I went out for a couple things over the weekend — including supporting a local restaurant with curbside pickup. Both times I wore a cloth mask that we had purchased back during the terrible California fires last year. It’s remarkable how what felt a little weird on Friday became 100 percent normal on Sunday. Help normalize mask wearing!
┏ UK mobile carriers politely ask people to stop burning 5G towers. Very few conspiracy theories make any kind of logical sense, but this one in particular baffles me. 5G cannot cause coronavirus.