As smartphones and tablets continue to dominate as our new computing devices of choice, application development has become a big and innovative business. Thanks to easier, less expensive development cycles, creativity in app development abounds — small start-ups and large companies alike are pushing the boundaries of mobile apps, creating new and unique ways to manage nearly every aspect of our lives. Of course, one of the primary reasons to own a mobile device at all is communication. The creativity on display from app developers has created several popular communication apps with a unique spin on them, utilizing mobile device hardware or innovative software design to create new ways for us to stay in touch with friends and family:
Video-centric apps are big business these days, since the proliferation of smartphones means that we’re all carrying video cameras with us at all times. The recent success of apps like Vine is indicative of a shift towards easily creatable and shareable video content. On the communication side, relative newcomer Glide combines the ease and speed of text messaging with video chat, allowing you to quickly chat 1-on-1 or with groups over video through your iPhone®’s camera. Your videos are stored in the cloud and can be viewed in real-time while “broadcasting” or even sent to offline friends to be viewed later.
Innovation isn’t simply about creating crazy new “outside the box” ways to communicate; in fact, some of the most exciting advances are simply making our existing tools easier or more productive to use. For example, MightyText, available on Android™, syncs your existing SMS and MMS messages with your computer or tablet, sending you instant notifications and allowing you to respond directly from the web without even needing to have your phone with you. It’ll even show you on your computer screen who is calling you if your phone rings. MightyText is an excellent example of innovation through interoperability, allowing our existing tools to work together in new and exciting ways.
PGi’s own iMeet brings a number of innovations to the traditionally hum-drum world of web conferencing. Available for iPhone, iPad® and Android smartphones, iMeet brings the instantly-available experience of mobile apps to your virtual meetings; with a single tap, you can hop into any iMeeting and your audio will connect automatically. Traditionally, entering web conferences has been a drawn-out process of exchanging URLs, tracking down dial-in numbers and trying to remember PIN codes. iMeet is an excellent example of bringing the focus of long-stagnant communication experiences squarely back to the user, using the technology of today to create intuitive communication experiences.
Snapchat is one of the most popular — and most controversial — communication apps on this list. Seen consistently at the top of both iTunes and Google Play rankings, Snapchat is a media messaging app built around the idea of limited time frames: you compose a message, pick recipients and then you decide how long your friends will be able to see it before the message disappears.
While marketed as letting users capture and share those “fleeting moments,” critics of the app claim it’s promoting the sharing of illicit pictures and giving its users the erroneous idea that anything shared on the Internet ever really goes away. Snapchat’s popularity and controversy are an excellent example of the double-edged sword of communication and social networking innovation; new, creative features often bring with them previously uncharted privacy concerns.
Just as the ready availability of smartphone cameras has caused a boom in photo- and video-sharing, another smartphone standby, the built-in GPS, has paved the way for an array of location-sharing software. For example, location-sharing app Highlight, launched at SXSW in 2012, leverages your smartphone’s GPS to let you know when you’re close to people you might know, as well as people who might have mutual friends or share your interests. Highlight also lets you broadcast messages to nearby friends or leave notes about your friends in the app for other people to find. Similar to Snapchat, however, Highlight’s combination of sharing real-world location and personal information has caused red flags for some privacy advocates.
As technology evolves, so too will the day-to-day interactions that technology can create. While there are certainly new and uncharted concerns to navigate, smartphone and tablet apps are going to continue to push the bounds of communications tech.
Do you have a favorite communication app of your own? Share them in the comments or tweet me @writerwin!