- Google Hangouts
- The iPad is a great communication device
When the iPad was announced the amount of jokes on the web regarding the fact that the iPad looks like a giant phone were readily abundant. Although the iPad is not a giant phone by design, it can be, at least in the sense that it can actually be a very capable communication device.
It all starts with the two built-in communication features of the iPad - iMessage and FaceTime. However, they are not the only ones. You can also use other communication giants’ apps like Skype, Facebook Messenger or Google Hangouts. You can also try lesser known tools, designed for more specific needs, like Yammer, Socialcast, Hipchat or others.
iMessage is basically a free text messaging tool between iOS and Macs.
When Apple introduced iMessage and the ability to start a message on the iPhone, then continue it on the iPad and then jump to the Mac, they were onto something great. The best part is that Apple made it completely seamless. You’d send a text message (SMS) to someone and whether they had an iPhone or iPad or Mac, they’d receive it. And it’d cost you nothing to send the iMessage. It’s something truly magical. Especially for all those that are constantly sending texts (SMS) to people in other countries. Now in iOS8 and Mac OSX Yosemite Apple is introducing “continuity” which basically means you’ll be able to send both iMessage and simple SMS messages from the Mac or iPad (if your iPhone is around) and even take your calls on these devices… while having the iPhone in your pocket. Very promising :-)
Augusto on iMessage:
“Apple is competing very well with WhatsApp which is in my opinion the king of multi-platform text message. I do business with people in Latin America and the US, and have friends in Europe. Not everyone has ‘iDevices’, so being able to communicate with them through free text and image messaging via WhatsApp is incredible. However, I noticed that people with iPhones and iPads tend to prefer iMessage over WhatsApp (which is not available for the iPad), and the reason is simple: there is something really wonderful to be able to begin a conversation on one machine and continue on the other, giving you a real flexibility and the speed that many need to be able to really keep a text conversation while moving along in their day.”
Michael remembers his first iMessage well:
”I was sending a usual ‘text SMS message’ with my iPhone to a friend in a different country and the message got sent as a ‘blue’ message instead of the usual ‘green’ one. What it meant was that it got sent through the Internet for free as an iMessage to the recipient without either of us having to sign up for anything. It was a great experience. That’s why I was happy when iMessage also became available on the iPad and the Mac. It’s not only registered with my cellular phone number but also with my email address. It works great. When I need to send a short message to someone and I want this message to reach them immediately, I don’t write an email but I start an iMessage conversation and choose their email address. When the address turns blue, I know they have an iMessage account and what I’m about to send them gets to their mobile device right away. Clean. Fast. Efficient
The cool thing is that the recipient doesn’t have to own an iPhone to have an iMessage account. They can also have an iPad or a Mac. Or both. Or all three of them. It just works.”
The natural extension of iMessage is FaceTime. It works where iMessage works and is the ‘voice and video’ version of the service. Again, members of the Nozbe team often have the need to call and discuss something. Augusto also uses it for business as well as for pleasure. Augusto’s parents and in-laws live far away and they love to tell stories to their grandkids via FaceTime. It compensates for the distance and assures that the grandparents are not strangers to the kids.
There is something special in being able to see each other’s faces - since we all work from home, it’s a nice bonus. While writing this book, we’d hold regular ‘Weekly Review’ sessions with each other via FaceTime. Being on two different continents, yet video chatting as if we were in the same room, felt great every time.
This app is still the ‘king of multi-platform messaging’ but it’s actually not available for the iPad. We write about it as we use it on our iPhones and we both think it’s a mistake WhatsApp doesn’t offer an iPad version. It could be authenticated with your phone number. This would really give iMessage a run for its money and most of all, would allow us to communicate to all of our friends and peers who prefer the other (Android) platform. Apart from being available on our operating systems, the other great thing about WhatsApp is the fact that it compresses both photos and videos upon sending so it makes even the multimedia messages almost instantaneous.
Skype is still the most popular way to communicate if you want to chat, talk or video-talk and we both use it every day. It’s available on all of the platforms, including Android and PC (unlike iMessage and FaceTime). Skype was the first company that brought video-conferencing to the masses.
When the calls and chats with friends and teammates can’t be done using iMessage or FaceTime we use Skype and it works great. The iPad client has improved substantially over the last years. However, you’re still unable to record conversations or video conversations. We recorded a series of video chats for this book and we had to use a Mac for that… and we shouldn’t need to.
The great thing about Skype that’s still not possible on FaceTime is the feature that allows group calling. Simply put, you can call a group of people and talk with all of them at once on Skype.
This is the Nozbe team’s ‘private’ social network. This is where the company chats. If you know what IRC was (and still is), it’s something similar, just from this century. Everyone in the company has an account and they chat about things both related and unrelated to the company and work. It’s like a water cooler in a remote office - people meet there and chat. Throughout each day messages, links and photos show up that folks want to share with the rest of the Nozbe team. Moreover, HipChat integrates with their development tools like GitHub or BitBucket. Every piece of code sent to these services now gets pushed to HipChat - this way Nozbe developers ‘communicate through code’. They are currently working on a Nozbe/HipChat integration to push comments in ‘Nozbe development’ projects to HipChat as well. That’s their missing link.
“I know companies that prefer to do a ‘private Facebook’ group for social chatting in the company but we chose not to. This would mean we’d have to go to the Facebook app (or web site) to chat - once there, it’d be very tempting to keep on browsing our Facebook timeline. That’s why we chose to separate our own social network. We want to chat with our team and then get back to work.”
Google has been trying to get into the social media/real-time communication arena and the Hangouts are their attempt. Sadly, it is neither user friendly nor fail-proof, making it hard to win people over from Skype and FaceTime. In our testing, Google Hangouts worked well with decent video and very good audio quality, but it crashed too often during our conversations, which was very annoying. Michael still uses Hangouts for group video calling (which FaceTime still doesn’t support) but it just crashes or quits connections all too often.
The iPad is a great communication device
It’s not a bigger iPhone but it really can be. You can talk to people, video-chat with them and exchange messages easily. There are apps from the big players as well as from the niche ones and they all help us stay in touch together. If you use Skype-out service you can even call ‘normal phones’ right from the iPad. We both enjoy staying in touch with people through the iPads and barely miss a beat from the desktop apps. We both use iPad for communication in business as well as our private lives and it does more than enough to cover our needs.