At a conference of more than 130,000 people, cell phone service, Internet connectivity and even the sureness that a taxi will be available when you need it is generally in question. Trying to coordinate between multiple people, therefore, can be a rather trying experience…unless you have one little group messaging app called Beluga.
Beluga is a simple, yet full-featured, app for both iPhone and Android smartphones, with access for any Web-enabled device through its Web interface. (If you didn’t know, we here at ReadWriteWeb like simple-yet-full-featured apps, so Beluga fits right in.) Even feature phone users can get in on the group chat fun, as the app will send messages as SMS.
Beluga joins into a crowded space of SMS alternatives, but takes it one step further by giving its users the ability to create “pods” of interaction and adding extremely useful features like geolocation of a individual pod members and picture sharing. If you’re all actively chatting and choosing to share your location (notice: you have the option to turn this off or on at any point), then you can switch over to the map view at any point to see where everyone is. This is a great feature for exploring a new place with friends, yet being able to run off on your own and still find each other.
Last year, all the conversation leading up to the South By Southwest conference – one of the largest yearly convergences of smartphone-owning geeks – was dominated by the battle between location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla. This year, we expect that same conversation, but this time focused on group messaging apps. There are a couple of strong competitors (such as GroupMe), but if our experience with Beluga at CES tells us anything, our vote lies with the whale.
We know, there’s likely a bunch more that do the same thing slightly differently. You tell us – what’s your favorite group messaging app, so far?