Quora for Android, Reviewed: Does The App Do The Service Justice?
Quora has made quite a name for itself: The (still) privately-held Q&A website plays host to some very high-profile users , and has an Online Now feature that lets you get answers instantly. We’ve been following Quora for years now — you can read our introduction to the service from way back in 2010, and marvel at the site’s old design as preserved in the screenshots of that post. A lot has changed since, and the inexorable shift towards mobile devices has continued strong. With its tech-savvy foundations, it makes sense for Quora to have an official mobile app — and indeed, the Quora app is the service’s official ambassador in Android-land. I took the app through its paces, and while it does get the job done, I’d be hard-pressed to say it blew me away.
When you first launch Quora, you’re asked to log in, right off the bat. This is consistent with the service’s behavior on the Web: You don’t get to play if you’re not logged in. I already had an account, so I logged in, and was greeted by a screen encouraging me to follow some topics. The service tried to guess what sort of things I’m into, and did a pretty good job of it (except for that bit about sports).
Once you follow a bunch of topics, it is time to begin browsing for interesting questions or blog items (yes, Quora lets you post blog items, not just questions).
The app uses Holo-style tabs to split the screen into Home, Notifs, Browse, and Profile sections. To find interesting stuff to read, you’re going to want to look at the Home and Browse tabs:
As you can see, the Home tab’s format is clean and uncluttered. Question titles pop out at you, and the upvote counter is similarly visible, with its colored background. Since there are no graphics or flashy animations, scrolling was fast and responsive on my phone. On my 5″ 1080p device, the app crammed in a lot of text onto one screen. This may change between devices, and is dependent on your ROM’s DPI setting: On your device, you may get larger fonts and less information on the screen at any one time.
Note the distinct lack of bells and whistles. The app delivers Quora, but with absolutely no pizazz. Just text, with the odd image thrown in here and there.
Reading Answers and Blog Posts
Once you find something that looks interesting, tap it to drill in. It can be either an Answer or a Blog Post:
This part of the Quora app feels decidedly Reddit-like — if you look at our review of Reddionic, you’ll see what I mean. You can browse the current question, and quickly explore other content from the same user. You could spend quite a bit of time hopping directly from question to question, without ever having to go through the Browse screen.
Customizing and Tweaking The App
The Settings screen offers three subcategories: Push Notifications, Location, and Network. You get very granular controls for when exactly the app should interrupt you with notifications, although unfortunately, all notification types are enabled by default:
Notably missing is any sort of Night Mode or a darker theme. The app uses a white background, which is fine for daytime reading, but may become very distracting at night. That’s a shame, because night-time is prime-time for reading apps, and apps like Pocket know this, and offer a selection of darker themes which make them easy to use at night.
A Thoroughly Utilitarian Utility
Quora for Android works. It is responsive and fast, and lets you use pretty much all of the service’s features, including posting new questions, replying to existing ones, and voting on content. It doesn’t include ads or other annoyances, and for the most part, stays out of your way while you focus on what you truly came there for (Quora’s content, rather than the app). That said, it also feels thoroughly uninspired — an app built because Quora couldn’t afford to ignore the burgeoning Android ecosystem, rather than because it was truly passionate about making an Android app. If and when it adds a night-mode, it would become truly feature-complete — but that won’t necessarily make it amazing to use.
Do you know of a better Android app for Quora? What do you think about it — would you use it, or would you rather just use the website? Let me know in the comments.