By Michael Fisher | August 8, 2012 11:10 AM
Like any kid who grew up with an abundance of time, books, and VHS movies, I like quoting things. From face-to-face interactions to phone calls to muttering to myself as I do dishes, about 1% to 2% of my daily vocal output is comprised of out-of-context quotes from a brain chock-full of memorable snippets. That ratio expands to about 10% on the internet; half of my time on Twitter is spent sharing senseless quotes, the symptom of a lifetime spent watching too much Star Trek and Growing Pains.
Think I’m weird? You’re right- but I’m not alone. Surely you’ve noticed the propensity of your friends to share quotes on social media. Repackaging and redistributing other people’s words is a time-honored practice, and we see spots for “favorite quotations” on nearly every social profile out there. The impulse to “re-gift” quotes has given us Texts From Last Night, S*** My Dad Says, and Twitter’s “retweet” functionality, among many others. It’s led to a new trend on visually-oriented networks like Facebook and Instagram, where quotations are now increasingly found as blocks of large text superimposed atop oversized images. Half the time they’re mawkish, hackneyed clichés from the same people who un-ironically hang motivational posters in their homes, and the other half are misattributed quotes which people didn’t bother to Snope before re-posting, but that’s beside the point. People want to be able to share the quotes that inspire them, that encapsulate their feelings, or that make them think.
So when Boston-based news source BostInno reported on Twitter that some iOS developers had devised an “Instagram for your quotes” I was instantly intrigued.
Not one to ignore BostInno’s advice, I decided to follow its lead and “get to quotin’!” I downloaded SquareQuote to my third-gen iPad and gave it a spin over the course of a few days. That iPad is currently running iOS 6 beta 3 (I know, I’m behind), so I won’t be discussing issues that cropped up as a result of that.
What It Is & How it Works
I’ve spent the last few days trying to come up with a way to quantify SquareQuote as succinctly as BostInno did, but I can’t: the app really is “an Instagram for your quotes.”
Following the sensible trend these days, SquareQuote incorporates some handy tutorials on first-use. Firing it up for its maiden voyage, the app prompts you for a Facebook login (more on this later), then guides you through the process of either browsing the existing library of quotations, or selecting and sharing a quote of your choosing. The former option is fairly straightforward, with a simple, browsable list of categories; selecting one drops you into a randomly-selected quote from another user, and you can scroll through others by swiping horizontally.
If you opt to compose and share a creation of your own, SquareQuote makes that pretty simple as well. You just input the quote itself, choose a source from your Facebook friends list (or you can atribute it to a Page or Group; the app searches all of Facebook globally). You can select a background image from your device’s gallery, from the user account of the person you’re attributing the quote to, or you can snap a new picture with your device’s camera.
After cropping the image, and tweaking the font and size of your text, you decide how broadly you’d like to share the quote. Available options are Public, Friends Only, and Only Me. While the iconography makes it appear that these settings directly parallel the Facebook privacy controls, they don’t; the sharing options here are SquareQuote’s.
All that’s left to do after these few steps is to post the quote, of course: there’s a big blue button labeled just for that purpose, and pressing it sends your newly-composed image into your Facebook feed, for your friends to like, comment on, demand to be removed, etc. If you attributed the quote to one of your Facebook friends, that friend is automatically tagged, and the quote shows up on their profile as well.
There’s a lot to like about SquareQuote right from the start. Its dead-simple tutorials get you going with no need for an FAQ or user manual, just as a modern app should. Even after the hand-holding stops, the user interface is clean and streamlined, and the privacy controls are right there, easily accessible with every post you make. The app is plenty stable, the only bugs I encountered easily attributable to the beta version of iOS I used.
SquareQuote’s behavior is also straightforward outside the confines of the app. Quote images posted to Facebook are clickable, bringing viewers to a dedicated landing page where they can view the full image and “Get The App,” if they so choose.
Overall, the app offers just enough to accomplish its stated intent. It gives users the ability to share quotations of all kinds, from old favorites to ridiculous things their mother said over the dinner table, and it lets them tag the source on Facebook. The end product it generates varies according to font, image, and layout choices, but it tends toward an attractive presentation.
SquareQuote gets solid points in my book for being very easy to use. Some of its dead-simple user interface, though, might be less by design than borne out of necessity. In short, the app lacks features. A lot of them.
Initially I thought one of these lacking areas was in sharing; my first few passes through the app, I didn’t uncover the ability to post photos to networks other than Facebook’s, and I thought Zuckerberg’s club was the only option. It turns out that’s only half-correct: you do need to post your photo to Facebook first, but after that you’re given the option to share it to Twitter, via email, via MMS, etc.
That’s needlessly cumbersome, and it also calls out one of the principal failings of the app: it’s entirely reliant on Facebook. If you’re not a Facebook user, this app is useless.
That may not mean anything to most people, given The Social Network ™’s popularity. But even if you’re a Facebook devotee, it’s annoying that you’re forced to select a friend or a Page to attribute every quote to. You’re also stuck with a limited selection of their pictures for a background image, unless you want to pick something from your photo stream or device gallery. The included “template” images quickly wear out what little novelty they offer. And you’d better be happy with the photo you select or snap as-is; there’s no provision for even light editing beyond cropping.
There aren’t a lot of text customization options either – SquareQuote offers a very slim array of fonts and colors, and no options for imaginative layouts at all, let alone fancier flairs like drop shadows. You can’t even insert a line break.
I have some other quibbles: there’s no way to see other users’ profiles, no way to affix a comment to a post before it goes live, and there’s no way to see other people’s SquareQuote profiles or streams. Likes, re-shares, and comments are similarly absent, with the Facebook integration handling that functionality … on Facebook. Without these features, the in-app experience is stark and limiting.
Sure, you can make the point that I’m asking for too much: SquareQuote is an app with a narrow focus, and it’s free. What do I expect? Well, that’s fine, but … know what else fits that description? Instagram.
You Should Get It
That doesn’t matter, though. While I’d have preferred a more robust feature set right out of the gate, it must be kept in mind that SquareQuote is a product in its infancy. Its shortcomings don’t seem, to me, the result of carelessness or laziness on the developer’s part, but the kind of common compromises often made in order to get an app out the door. It’s not always a cardinal sin to say “we’ll add that feature in an update.”
As long as those updates -and more robust social features- eventually come, the app seems destined for success. Basically, SquareQuote is something I always knew I needed, but didn’t realize other people wanted too. Will it ever reach the kind of adoption enjoyed by similar apps like Instagram? Probably not. But as a niche product catering to that growing userbase which loves sharing quotations, SquareQuote does its job well. If it can harness its extreme potential -and get itself onto other mobile platforms- it has a chance of becoming the next buzz-worthy social app. Maybe even among non-hipsters.