We’re getting closer to SXSWi, and the IntoMobile team will be bringing all the goodies to you as it happens from Austin, TX. During large events such as SXSW, it’s pretty important for us to be able to keep in touch with each other. On a typical workday, we correspond with each other and shoot the breeze in our own virtual chatroom. But when we’re out in the field reporting from CES, MWC and SXSW, things get a little more tricky. That’s where group messaging apps come in and really save the day.
We’ve selected some of our favorites below to give you an idea of the apps we use when we’re out covering an event. When text messaging and e-mails don’t cut it, group chat apps like Beluga and GroupMe really help keep things together, especially when three or more of us are coordinating on a story or keeping track of a hectic schedule.
Beluga is a pretty solid group messaging app that allows you and other iPhone users to create “pods,” as they’re called, to share messages, locations and photos with each other. You can also name each pod and add a picture for them, too (e.g. I’ve named a few “House Party” and would use stills or posters from the movie). Beluga is a lot of fun and really convenient, and it support push notifications every time someone in your pod sends a message.
However, there may be a chance that Beluga changes things up in the near future. Recently, the service was acquired by Facebook, so you can only imagine the sorts of changes that will be taking place there. Perhaps it will be more integrated with the social networking service, and you’ll only be able to log in with your Facebook account. That means if you’re anti-Facebook or you’ve deleted or never created a Facebook account, Beluga might not work so well with you. Otherwise, it’s a simple-to-use and intuitive app that should take care of most of your messaging needs. The only other downside is that it’s available for the iPhone and Android only. The app is totally free, so if it sounds like your cup of tea, go download it now!
Fast Society seems to be the freshest of the bunch, and its design and style is definitely targeted for a younger audience. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less capable as a group messaging app. In it, you create “teams” to share messages, pictures and locations with. The cool part is you can stay within the app so that you don’t have to pay for text messaging – just like Beluga – or you can go to push SMS if you want.
Here’s a snippet of what Fast Society does:
Go back in time – remember that awesome night you shared with your best friends? Relive the fun times whenever you want with the new past team view!
Guest List – Not sure who to invite to your team? Share a public invite with your friends on Twitter or Facebook. You can accept or decline any RSVPs inside the app and control who gets in (and who gets rejected)!
Photo Sharing – Capture your experience with friends in a way words never could.
Shout Out – Shout, scream, let it out. Record a brief audio message that instantly is blasted out to your team. It’s like your own secret walkie-talkie!
For more details on Fast Society, check out their site here and watch the video. Fast Society is available for iPhone and iPod touch users, and on the Android platform, too. And it’s free.
GroupMe is arguably the best of the bunch. The app is available for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry and has proved itself reliable when we needed it most. In addition to the ability to share messages, photos and locations like the other apps, GroupMe allows conference calling to your group, too. Sometimes messaging can take a while and all the info you need to share and receive can be knocked out in a single, brief phone call.
Best of all, perhaps especially for those of you going to SXSW soon, is that the app has been updated to include new features and fixes just in time for the huge event. One feature is that GroupMe will determine whether you have a good or bad data connection, and switch to SMS for messaging if it does get bad – something that SXSW attendees can attest to.
GroupMe is free, just like the other apps, but perhaps the biggest incentive to choose this over the others is that it supports multiple platforms. On the other hand, since they’re all free, might as well grab them all! Just in case.