A new application has just been launched for the Android community and it is such a novel idea that I had to share it with you here today.
The idea is quite simple, AppChat will create a list of applications that you currently have installed on your smartphone or tablet. Then, it will create a chat for those apps(if there isn’t one created already) or it will join you into the previously created chat for that application. This is one of those application that will live or die based on how many people adopt it and actively use it. Just like the name implies, the application is in an alpha state right now the design and the features aren’t very polished. The developers seem very active and willing to listen to any suggestions and feedback that you may have.
So let’s see what the application looks like and how it functions.
When you first launch the application it will ask you to create a username. There is no user accounts so I imagine that anyone will be able to use any username. I wasn’t told my name was taken so I’m not sure if my phone/account has been assigned that name or if it will allow anyone to use the username doug. I did try to get the username Doug at first but it returned an error because of the uppercase I believe. So the lowercase version worked just fine and I was able to move onto the next part.
After you choose a username that doesn’t return an error, you press a button at the bottom and then you’ll see a blank page with the text ‘Joining chat rooms’ right in the middle. It can take a minute or two before the list of chat rooms appear. Remember, you are joining all of the chat rooms too so the amount of time it takes to propagate your first list will depend entirely on how fast your internet connection is combined with how bogged down the server is at that time. One of the developers were talking on /r/Android over on Reddit and they were mentioning that they had some trouble keeping the servers up due to the influx of users.
Here is what a couple of the application chats look like. Again, the number of chats you join and see will depend on how many applications you have installed. This is just what was at the top of the list when I first joined. I’m assuming that the green tag you see on the right side is for how many ‘new’ messages have been sent to the chat room since you last visited. Since it was my first time launching the application, every message was new. This feature seems useless for the first time you launch it but it will become useful for every other time you open up the application. Tapping on one of these chat rooms for an app will take you into the room where you can see the conversations going on.
Remember, the application is in alpha so don’t expect a design that will knock your socks off. You get a list of messages in a list view which you can scroll up and down to read past messages if you so choose. At the bottom is a big text box that you can tap onto and bring up your keyboard. Tapping on the big blue button to the right will send your message into the chat room. As you can see, there is a star next to the specific message. I don’t know exactly what that is going to be used for though. Maybe it will be a stat that users can show off in a future profile page or something.
Tapping on one of the messages that you see in the chat room will open up a dialog box with two options(at this time). One of these is to include that user in a message of your own and another is to flag the message as offensive. One of the developers have said there are moderators who are monitoring the messages that are getting flagged so be careful what you post here. With this being an alpha application, I can’t image that they are able to pay anyone to do this so it will either be done by the developers themselves, friends of the developers or possible community members who volunteer.
Tapping on the ‘Mention User’ option will put an ‘@’ symbol in front of their user name and automatically put that into the message box at the bottom of the application. Very reminiscent of Twitter and how their @ replies work. There’s no way of looking at all of your @ replies nor can you look at someone else’s. Remember, it is an alpha version of the application so the features are pretty bare right now. Depending on how successful the application becomes, we could see some interesting features like those added sometime in the future. Then again, this could all just be a side project for a group of devs and they might not be able to commit anymore time to it. We’ll just have to see how things pan out.
If you end up missing what some people are saying, you have the ability to scroll up and few some of the past chat messages. I can only imagine there is a limit here to prevent the performance of the application from getting too slow. So this is one of the features that you’ll have to experiment with and see how it works. If you have scrolled up to see a past message and a new message has been sent to the chat room, you’ll see this little message appear at the top of the application. Tapping on it will auto scroll to the bottom where you can see all of the new messages that were sent. The chat rooms seem to auto refresh itself every X seconds and it doesn’t look very smooth when it happens. This is another area that I hope to see some polish added in the future.
AppChat will actually detect if you have taken a screenshot and you’ll see a notification appear in your notification panel. Tapping on this notification will let you upload the screenshot and send it to the chat room of your choice. This is one of my favorite features, even though there aren’t many, but it helps to facilitate a way for you to communicate something very specific with an application. This is where I think AppChat will excel. Say you are stuck in a game, simply take a screenshot and ask how to get past this area. Or say that you are seeing an odd glitch in an app, you could take a screenshot, send it to the chat room and get some help that way too.
I also think AppChat will help to curate a community of people around a specific application. Like a game that you need to invite people to progress, or that you want to play against other people who also have the application. Instead of trying to find a community on Facebook or on some random forum somewhere, you can pull up a community directly from your phone. I think that AppChat is going to benefit those types of app/game owners the most but we could see anything develop here. It will be interesting to see how the application and the community who uses it evolve over the next few months/years.
Have you had a chance to try out AppChat yet? What do you think of this idea and what do you think of the application itself? Let me know where you think the application excels and where you think it needs some improvement. I’m really looking forward to hearing what kind of features you would like see implemented in future updates.
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