Facebook CatchUp: The New Audio-Only Group Call App Explained
The ability to communicate has never been easier, and Facebook recently launched a new app called CatchUp to offer another way for people stay in touch. Over the past few weeks, there's been a surge of activity around communication apps, due to the COVID-19 lockdown orders forcing many to rely on technology to stay connected. For those using this new app, friends can connect with each other, but on their own terms, and when they are ready to talk.
In 2019, Facebook founded the NPE (New Production Experimentation) team with the goal to develop consumer-focused apps. For example, the NPE team is also behind Hobbi, Whale, Kit and Tuned. The team designed these apps to find out what consumers like, and as research into how many of the features can be adapted and improved on in the future.
In a blog post this week, Facebook announced CatchUp, a communication app for voice-only chat. Facebook and the NPE team explain that most people do not call others because the would-be caller has no idea when it would be convenient to make the call. Therefore, CatchUp looks to specifically remedy this issue with one of its main features being that users can let others know when they are available to chat.
In order to use the app, the user needs to toggle a setting that makes it clear they are available to take a call. Additionally, the app offers auto availability features so a user can receive calls when they are in a car or wearing headphones. However, it is worth mentioning that when a user is done with a conversation and no longer able to take a call, they need to remember to toggle their availability off again. Once in a call, the app displays all users, coupled with four different options. The first three are typical for phones where a user can end a call, mute themselves or set the call to speaker mode. Additionally, users can toggle privacy settings to make the group chat more secure. Although the app is new, it has several problems. For example, the poke feature failed to alert when a friend wished to chat. Additionally, the app suggested a user was currently in a call when that was not true.
With Facebook owning the app, it is worth remembering that despite its privacy claims, the company has a history of security issues, in addition to creepy targeted ads. Furthermore, the social networking company already offers several different chat services, including Messenger and WhatsApp. To some, this might seem like an unnecessary app, considering a person can just send a text message to see if a person or group is available. Furthermore, the app’s goal also seems to encourage users to ignore their own phone’s ability to make a call without needing to waste storage space on an app. However, the app may be useful for people who want to make international calls, or those who often take part in group voice chats.
For those wanting to give the app a try, it is currently available to download on Android and iOS, but only for a limited time. From testing, the app still appears to be buggy, and it is missing features to help it stand out. While Facebook might make improvements to it in the future, users might be better off scheduling calls and checking someone’s availability through a quick text until then.
Source: NPE Blog