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I Can't Stop Playing This Addictive New iPhone Word Game

The game was included in the iOS 17.5 update, and Apple News Plus subscribers can play it now.

Zachary McAuliffe Staff writer
Zach began writing for CNET in November, 2021 after writing for a broadcast news station in his hometown, Cincinnati, for five years. You can usually find him reading and drinking coffee or watching a TV series with his wife and their dog.
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Zachary McAuliffe
4 min read
Apple iOS 17 Name Drop
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Apple released iOS 17.5 in May, and the update brought a few new features to some iPhones, like the ability to detect third-party trackers. But the update also introduced a fun new word game to Apple News Plus ($13 a month) subscribers called Quartiles, which I've been playing nonstop.

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In this game, you have to construct words out of lettered tiles, and if you use four of these tiles to make a word, that's called a Quartile. Untangling the words can be difficult, but the good news is you aren't limited to a certain number of guesses per puzzle, like in Wordle. Finding Quartiles in the jumbled mess of letters is as satisfying for my brain as peeling the plastic off a new device's screen. 

"Our new daily word game Quartiles is a fun addition to our popular crossword offerings," Lauren Kern, editor-in-chief of Apple News, said in a blog post. "We're always working to improve the experience for our News+ subscribers."

Here's how to access Quartiles and what you need to know about the game.

Read more: Why You Should Download iOS 17.5.1 Right Now

How can I access Quartiles?

Here's where Apple News Plus subscribers can find Quartiles.

1. Open the Apple News app.
2. Tap Following in the menu across the bottom of your screen.
3. Tap Puzzles

From the Puzzles page, you can find today's Quartiles under Today's Puzzles. You can also find all the latest Quartiles by tapping Quartiles across the top of the Puzzles page, next to the options for Crossword and Crossword Mini.

While you have to subscribe to Apple News Plus, which is $13 a month, you can get a free three-month trial of the service with the purchase of a new iPhone, iPad or Mac.

Read more: How to Play Your Daily Crossword Puzzle on iOS 17

How do you play Quartiles?

Two Quartiles puzzles side-by-side

As you find words, they appear in a menu across the top of your screen.

Apple/Screenshot by CNET

Quartiles is a word game where you have to combine tiles into different words for points. There are 20 tiles arranged in a 4x5 grid, and each tile has between two and four letters on it. There are usually between 25-30 words you can create with these tiles. 

There are always five words that each use four tiles to create, called Quartiles. No two Quartiles use the same lettered tiles, which means that the five Quartiles will perfectly use all 20 tiles. So if you use the letters "ion" to create the word "jurisdiction," those letters won't appear in any of the other Quartiles. Those lettered tiles can still be used to create other, shorter words.

You can also scramble the tiles whenever you want to give you a new perspective on the letters. When you solve a Quartile, those letters stay put while the other tiles shuffle around the screen.

How do you win Quartiles?

Quartiles puzzle with all the Quartiles found

Even after finding all the Quartiles, you might not gain the rank of Expert.

Apple/Screenshot by CNET

The goal is to create as many words with your 20 tiles as possible. Each word you create gives you a certain number of points depending on how long the word is. Single tile words, like "mat" or "car," will net you one point each, while Quartiles, like "pterodactyl," will bring in eight points a piece. If you find all the Quartiles you get a 40-point bonus.

The game also assigns ranks to your point score. Those ranks, from lowest to highest, are Novice, Apprentice, Builder, Artisan, Wordsmith and Expert. To achieve the rank of Expert, you have to score over 100 points, and even after you get 100 points, there are usually more words to find.

What if I can't find any more words?

If you can't find more words, you can tap the three dots (...) in the top right corner of your screen and then tap Reveal All Words. Make sure you really want to reveal the words, because this will end the game for the day. 

Can you play Quartiles with others?

You can compete against friends and others by sharing your Quartiles score in the Game Center. Here's how.

1. Open Settings.
2. Tap News.
3. Tap the toggle next to Game Center.

You can also play in tandem with others on the same screen. Sometimes my wife and I will play Quartiles together, and by that I mean she will gently take my phone away from me with a disappointed sigh after I try to make a word out of random letters. Yeah, I know "electal" probably isn't a word, but maybe it is and I've never heard or seen it before. Spoiler: It isn't. 

For more on Apple, you can check out everything the company announced at WWDC 2024 and all the features coming in iOS 18. You can also check out how to download the iOS 18 developer beta and why you might want to wait.

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