Hooked — an app for reading bite-sized stories in text message form — is rapidly climbing the App Store charts.
The app initially launched in 2015, but it started growing quickly last fall. Now, it’s risen to the top of Apple’s top free apps chart, surpassing apps like Bitmoji, Instagram, and Snapchat.
In fact, according to app analyst Sensor Tower, Hooked’s total downloads grew from about 336,400 in October 2016 to 2.22 million in March 2017 — which equates to a 560% jump.
So why is Hooked becoming so popular? Likely because it’s incredibly simple to use and its stories keep you on the edge of your seat.
Here’s how it works.
Hooked has overtaken the App Store's long-reigning champ, Bitmoji, as one of the top free apps on the App Store. Over the past few days, it's jockeyed for No. 1 with Ballz, a Breakout-style game that's also incredibly addictive.
As soon as you open the app, you'll be launched into your first chat story. The interface looks a lot like iMessage, but all you have to do is tap the screen to get the next message. Each message is called a 'hoot' (Hooked's logo is an owl).
Hooked doesn't give you any information about the characters or any backstory before you start reading. All you know is the names of the two main characters -- in this case, Tiffany and her mum.
With every tap of the screen, a new message appears. Each message is more suspenseful than the next.
But the chat format isn't perfect, because it's supposed to mimic a regular text conversation between two people. Sometimes, the app has to interject to let you know some time has passed.
But there's a limit on how much you can read at once. After about 30 messages, the app makes you take a break, refusing to show you more of the story for nearly 45 minutes.
Hooked gives you the option to become a 'Superhoot,' meaning a paying user. You can pay $2.99 per week, $7.99 per month, or $39.99 per year to read an unlimited number of stories.
Paying for the app unlocks some more features, like letting you choose your own story to read rather than Hooked deciding for you...
But if you decide not to pay, Hooked will send you notifications to let you know the time is up and you can continue reading.
If you don't open the app back up immediately, Hooked will prod you with a snippet of the conversation. Out of context, it can sometimes be a little strange.
The first story I read on Hooked was in three parts. The first part finished on a cliffhanger, so I was practically obligated to start reading Part 2.
After you finish reading a story, you can 'like' it, share it with other people, or leave a comment on it.
Overall, the style of the books -- the lead image, the headlines, and the descriptions -- can feel a lot like the $0.99, self-published ebooks on Amazon. While extremely entertaining, the stories don't exactly qualify as highbrow literature.
Still, Hooked is a lot of fun. While the stories are ridiculous and over-the-top -- the one I read involved an extramarital affair, a gun-toting mistress, and an infant left alone in a cold basement -- they're highly entertaining and dramatic.