At the core of the Wildcard experience is the notion of mobile cards, small blocks of information that are easy to browse on your phone. It's something we first saw on Palm's Web OS devices, but it's also come back into fashion on Twitter, Pinterest and services like Google Now. While the original Wildcard app tried to tackle both mobile web browsing and commerce, the new version is now focused entirely on news. The company had developed an intriguing way to replicate mobile shopping with its earlier app, but according to Khoi Vinh, Wildcard's VP of user experience, nobody was using it.
The Wildcard home screen is fairly simple: Featured stories up top, and a collection of recent stories below. For now, the app gives you curated news and also algorithmically determines stories that you might like. You can also connect it to your Twitter account to get even more personalized results. Tapping into a card either opens up the story in a mobile web browser view, or you can choose to view it as a stripped down card. For bigger stories, there are also collections of cards to help you contextualize the entire story.
For example, the card for Hillary Clinton's recently announced college affordability plan has a card collection featuring a Bloomberg post at the top, as well as content from other outlets below. The editorial team has also added additional context for the story between some of the cards, and the app pulls in related tweets and stories at the bottom of the card collection. Altogether, Wildcard allows you to choose how deep you go into understanding a story. You could just browse the card summaries and interstitial snippets, or dive into each post for the fully story.
It's sort of like a balance between the now defunct mobile news app Circa and a traditional news reader. You can also save cards for reading offline, similar to Instapaper or Pocket, or choose to receive notifications when there are updates to stories you've read.
"There are not many experiences that can give you satisfaction in the two minutes you're waiting in line, as well as the two hours driving to the beach," Wildcard CEO Jordan Cooper said.
While its functionally useful, Wildcard's design also makes it fun to use. The app teaches you how to use it with a slick onboarding tutorial, and simply moving around the app and tapping into cards has a polished feel. It's clear that a lot of thought went into practically every design element of Wildcard (Vinh detailed his design process on his blog).
One thing I've learned after testing dozens of news apps is that they mostly come down to personal preference. Wildcard's selection of news and slick interface appeals to my own aesthetic, as well as my disdain for being overloaded with a ton of stories to read. If you demand instant access to entire RSS feeds full of stories, there are plenty of other apps for that. But Wildcard proves you can build a solid news reading experience with some tasteful curation and solid design.