Dscout review: going beyond Project Ara

The survey app from Project Ara is back, and it's paying out

Many of you might've heard of dscout before; it was the app that Project Ara used while trying to hone in on its prototype. Users would complete surveys in the hopes of eventually being rewarded with a unit later in the project. And like many of you, when we fell behind on that (which for me was when they started having us make fake phones that we were supposed to get feedback on from other actual, physical human beings) most of us kinda forgot the app was there.

Well, there's a reason to open it back up again, or install it if you don't have it yet: dscout is giving out something better than the chance at prototypes: cold, hard cash. Well, they're giving out checks, mostly, but they're giving people money to be opinionated on their phones, and I'm sure there's more than a few readers out there who love to speak their minds and wouldn't mind padding their wallets for it. But is the app good enough to bear your opinions and possibly your soul to?

Have fun, get paid, talk crap about everything

Dscout is a simple model: you complete surveys on your phone for money. And since it's done through an app, it's easy to have respondents submit videos and pictures in these surveys, but more importantly, you can do these surveys anywhere. Stuck on the bus, waiting for a meeting, topless in bed, anywhere. You can even pause and come back during a survey. So long as you finish it by the deadline, it's easy, and it pays. I've only gotten into three surveys so far, but the three I got into paid fifty bucks a piece. The checks show up a few weeks after the survey's over, so it's not as nice as the instant money that Google Opinion Rewards spits out, but it pays way more.

It's been a few days since a survey was open, but don't worry, they'll be more

Survey apps are only useful when there are surveys — and right now there aren't a lot of those.

Now, that said, there aren't a booming supply of surveys right now. They'll be maybe two or three open at a time, or they'll be nothing for a good week. That may be changing soon, since dscout just got more investors and is expanding, but for now, it is still a bit of a problem. You don't have to open the app to check every day, though, since dscout will send out emails when there's a survey to apply for. And while some have been location specific (it's market research, so some of it is geographically sensitive market research), others simply haven't applied to me. I'm not a coffee drinker and I don't really spend a lot of time in hotels (yet, that may change if I work here long enough), so I can't really apply for them. But Intel has done studies on dscout, and there was a survey about the future of Android. Those are the surveys that made me happy. Because I got $50 apiece to tell companies what I spend so much time already talking about.

a standard application page

Now, when you find one that's open and you like, you can see what the reward is before signing up. This one's a bit lower than previous surveys, but it's still enough to pay the internet bill, or go in the fund for what I intend to buy out of the Motorola event in September. You're also given a description of what the mission will entail if you get in.

After that, we hit the application link and head in. You answer the questions just as you would for any application, and when you come to pictures and video, you follow the onscreen directions. for pictures, you also have the choice to use pictures from the gallery, giving you the benefit of re-using pictures or using better cameras than theirs. With videos, however, you are stuck with theirs, as most videos are timed and the timer will play on-screen as you record and stop when you're out of time.

the dscout video interface, complete with instructions and timer.

This isn't the worst camera interface ever, but at the same time it's a bit difficult sometimes for someone who's been spoiled by the Moto X camera's tap anywhere to take a picture.

Once you're in, most missions are over a few days to a week. You'll usually have four to ten items to submit per survey, called snippets. Snippets will always have either a photo or video element to them. Most will take you less than five minutes, but on more intense snippets, where you're asked to explain your opinions at great length, they can get a bit tedious.

And now, we wait...

I'd love a dscout survey to tell devs how much I want dark apps. Dark apps forever!

The interface for the app is simple, clean, very very white, and lacking a useful back button while applying or submitting a snippet. If anything is wrong, you either have to back out of the entire process and get to the overview of your submission, or you have to wait till the end to correct it.

Money, money, money

It's nice to get money, but to get money, you have to apply to surveys, and until we see more of them, I'm not sure how well dscout can catch on. That said, the money I've gotten so far has made me a believer in dscout. Once they get more clients, more surveys, and a better back button, it'll be a wonderful way for consumers to help tell companies what they want.

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.