While the seemingly infinite video options on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and elsewhere provide plenty of content, there’s definitely a “paradox of choice” effect when it’s time to pick the next thing to watch. Qplay is an iPad app that looks to reduce that stress of choice by turning videos from around the web into “Qs,” channels of content from your social feeds and around the web.
The app gives you a couple of options to find content that’s up your alley. You can register a Qplay account, which lets you create either private Qs for yourself or public Qs if you want to share content with friends or followers by saving content from your browser using Qplay’s bookmarklet. You can also register with your Facebook, Twitter or YouTube accounts to draw in content from your friends, the people you follow, or the channels you subscribe to.
To make relevant videos easier to find, Qplay lets you add hashtags to content within the app. So when you’re watching a tech-focused Q that you found on the service and want to watch more videos about Android, you can narrow down the focus of what you’re watching by clicking that hashtag. While hashtags have a tendency to become annoying on social networks, in Qplay they serve as an unobtrusive layer of metadata that you can ignore if you want to.
That’s true for most of the functionality in the app. If you’re the kind of person who consumes content very passively, you can simply click on the News Q and watch up-to-date content from a variety of news sources around the web. Since the Q moves between videos automatically, the experience is like watching cable news and changing the channel every time there’s a boring segment on — but you don’t have to touch the remote.
I enjoyed using Qplay on my iPad to stream a mix of news, comedy, dogs, and video game reviews while hanging out on the couch or in bed, but most people would prefer to enjoy their videos on an actual television. To that end, the company today rolled out the ability to send your Qs over to a Chromecast.
Since Chromecast doesn’t work by directly streaming from your device — the app simply tells it where to find content — you can do things like watch one thing on your TV and another on your iPad, or queue up a Q and close your iPad to focus on what you’re watching.
I don’t have a Chromecast, but in a demo with Qplay CEO Phil Peterson last week, I was able to see how it handles. Everything was quick enough, with new Qs starting up on the TV almost immediately after being selected on the iPad. The only issue I noticed was that videos would occasionally play at really low resolutions for a 1080p screen, a problem Peterson attributed to the source feeds, not the app or Chromecast.
If there’s one downside to using Qplay for casual video watching, it’s that the interface is a little cluttered for my taste. There’s navigation through public and private Qs, hashtags, videos in the current Q you’re watching and, if you have it set up with Chromecast, controls for the videos on the TV and the iPad.
The app has an intro video that guides you through the basics, but it goes through each feature a bit too quickly and its animations are all a little too distracting to absorb what you’re supposed to be learning. An interactive demo that a user can skip would be better here.
After watching the video, I found myself confusedly tapping to try to pause content or make the interface go away and accidentally doing something else like skipping to another video in my Q. That might just be something that goes away once you get used to it after extensive use.
Right now, Qplay is free — and devoid of all ads that aren’t actually part of the videos you’re watching — making it a good alternative to setting up playlists of videos on YouTube for watching later, for instance. When I asked how content creators feel about having ads stripped from their videos, Peterson suggested that Qplay might eventually become a new avenue for distribution of content, with companies specifically creating paid Qs that people could tune in to for a small fee or subscription. That, of course, depends on the success of the app and the content that becomes popular among its users.
The app is only available on the iPad for now, but the company plans to offer versions for Android tablets and eventually phones.