Wildcard is a slick new app that gives you the latest news from a large, curated collection of sources while also providing you an easy way to shop. The combination of postings from around the web with online shopping may sound a little odd but it works. For example, one featured collection focuses on coffee and includes articles about coffee alongside opportunities to purchase coffee brewers or other related-to-coffee items. Wildcard is free and requires iOS 8 and up. It is optimized for the iPhone 5, 6, and 6 Plus.
After a brief introduction, Wildcard's main screen appears listing trending searches, featured collections, a presumably trending article, new brands available in the app, and finally a master directory of the various topics available. The features collections include the displayed (above) Tech Digest, the aforementioned "Home Brew" collection about coffee, and an eclectic collection of others such as water resistant sneakers, how to turn a pumpkin into a keg, and surviving a breakup.
The Wildcard directory contains categories such as News, Tech and Gadgets, Lifestyle, Entertainment, and so forth. It is a mix of news (blog and professional) and products for sale. These curated collections span a wide spectrum of sources and interests, which is a good thing. I only wish there was a way to add my own sources to the mix. There are certain websites that are part of my daily mix and they aren't all available in the app.
One thing I noticed is that, in some cases, the content presented was a bit stale. For example, Daring Fireball, in the Tech section, displays nothing more recent than October 24 (it is November 13 as I write this). I prefer to make my own decisions about what I will and won't read from a particular source so I hope this is a glitch that will get fixed and not some attempt at ham-fisted curation.
That said, I have to say that the actual display of the sources and of the news items themselves are gorgeous. The card metaphor really works in this context and it makes the endless river of news feel manageable. Each site's content is displayed in its own color scheme and generally looks very well done. A few times, such as with Brain Pickings, it fails and the controls at the top of the screen are almost entirely lost (See below). But these are minor quibbles (just remember that even if you can't see it, there is a back button at the upper left!) and does not overly detract from the experience.
The online shopping aspect appears to be quite clean. Even here, content is presented in cards from the product information, the checkout form, and so forth, and the metaphor holds here as well. An in-app web browser is provided for when you need or want to get more details on a given product and you are warned that you are now viewing content from outside the app (as if to say, don't blame us if it doesn't look as sexy as it does in the rest of the app).
When you first go to purchase something, you create an account, which will store your shipping and billing information and your chosen credit card number. Interestingly, you cannot create an account until you actually purchase anything. At least you can scan your credit card so you do not have to type the numbers in (though I much prefer it when apps support 1Password so I don't even have to take the card out at all).
Wildcard is a beautiful app and it does a wonderful job of presenting information and products in a well thought-out interface that is a model of simplicity hiding complexity. If it allowed me to add more sources (or hide others) and otherwise tailor the experience more, it would be even better. For where it is now, it's excellent and it will be interesting to see how it evolves over time.
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