Review: Wildcard has a deck for all your first-world problems

What do you get when you stick Pinterest, Flipboard, Twitter Cards, and the Wirecutter into a blender? I suspect the result might look something like Wildcard (opens in new tab), the brainchild of former New York Times designer Khoi Vinh and the other folks behind Coopkanics. Wildcard, released Thursday, combines trending news with featured collections of goods and services to offer you a solution to all your first-world problems.

I use that phrase — "first world problems" — rather jokingly, but it's clear that the current audience Wildcard looks to serve is expected to carry a fair amount of disposable income. Underneath trending news searches, you'll find collections of goods to help you fend off the flu, coffee shortages, breakups, neck tie disasters, podcasting problems, and the like. Everything can be purchased right inside the app, though surprisingly, there's no Apple Pay integration to be found — you can use PayPal's card scanning feature to input your credit card information, but otherwise you're entering things the old-fashioned way.

Once you've purchased something within Wildcard, you'll have the choice to create an account and save your information for future purchases/item targeting. Tellingly, there's no way to create an account with Wildcard until you purchase an item — spending your hard-earned cash is the theme of this app, even though it's disguised itself as a series of "helpful" collections for all your wants and needs.

Unlike the Wirecutter's ultra-detailed reviews, there seems to be no front-facing rhyme or reason for a product's selection. Wildcard doesn't seem to be interested in explaining why the "chemex drip coffee set" is superior over its numerous competitors; instead, its collections focus on creating a well-rounded assortment of items that fit the theme.

And those collections do have a nice flow to them. Unfortunately, they're largely for items I'd likely never purchase: The first item on the "Flu Fighters" list was $16 organic Jasmine Mist tea. In fact, the only thing on that list I considered picking up — $1 hand sanitizer — would cost a whopping $13 to ship to my door. Uh, lest the flupocalypse rain down upon upon us and I'm afraid to leave my house, I think I'll just walk down to Walgreens.

I'm being a little harsh on Wildcard, which really is a very nicely-designed app for what it's trying to do. The Web is swamped with data, especially when it comes to product reviews and purchasing recommendations, and the card-based system is an intriguing way to handle that. I'll be curious to see if and how Wildcard expands the system in the future beyond shopping; currently, the app offers trending topics for news along with a limited search feature that uses partner news sources to display its data.

Until then, the six-figure Silicon Valley crowd certainly has enough disposable income to burn. And if you need a digital advisor to suggest the perfect brand-name water-resistant sneakers for you to take on your very first camping trip... well, you might have just found your perfect fit.

(Updated 11/14/2014 with more information on the app's news collecting and search abilities.)

Serenity Caldwell

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

  • "No Apple Pay integration to be found..."? Boo :)
    Nice review. I'll give it a spin.
  • This couldn't be more of narrow-minded review. You've reviewed what happens if you click on a featured shopping collection in Wildcard, but have failed to recognize its... well anything else. This isn't a review of Wildcard. If readers want to actually understand what it is, and why it's important, download the app, and use it the next time you would open your mobile browser, like chrome or safari, to search for something.
  • Your comment also tells me nothing about the app, fyi. At least this "narrow-minded" review made the effort. Your comment, on the other hand, tells me jack.
  • That's true. I made a comment about this article, not a review of the app. The reviewer made an effort to write a review.
  • Here's the thing: From my testing, 80% of Wildcard is based around brands and getting you to buy something. You can't even create an account without buying something. Therefore, my review was going to be focused on the central purpose of the app. It's well-designed, and the trending searches and customized card ideas aren't bad, but they're hyper-selective. Great for finding out what ten specific news organizations think about current events, but less helpful for specific searches. (Searching for something as broad as "roller derby" brings up a never-ending "Loading cards" screen, for example. In Google, that term brings up 1.4 million results.) Card-based browsing may well be a better Internet search solution in theory, but right now, I'm less than impressed with its news searches for anything other than trending topics. And when the front page of an app focuses more on brand and item collections than news and information, that's the portion I'm going to focus on, too.