December 5, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
You whippersnappers today don’t know how easy you have it with the plethora of group messaging app choices. Back in my day, there was only one BBM-style app for Android, and its name was Pingchat. But since so many choices have come and gone, the original is back with a new name, face, and focus.
Pingchat has morphed into Touch, a rebranded group communication tool that’s all about “shared experiences.” Touch still has the group chat system that made it popular among Android, BlackBerry, and iOS users – more than a million downloaded the Android version – but it also has photo sharing as a core purpose for the app. So users can still start a chat among friends as they make plans for where to go and what to do tonight, but they can also create an Experience the next day to relive last night’s debauchery or family gathering.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because this is the same pitch thrown by every photo-sharing app, personal social network, and Tom, Dick, and Harry in the start-up scene. Touch is counting on having an established user base that already loved Pingchat to embrace this new redesign – that looks pretty sexy, by the way – and help encourage people to have a focused, personal network with the right people. A user creates an Experience by adding photos from a camera or gallery app, then selecting which friends they want to include. Friends can add comments but there’s a special section in Experiences for that rather than a continuous stream or comments attached to a specific image. That was a clumsy design choice for an otherwise intriguing app that I can only hope is promptly changed.
Good or bad, the new Touch at least gives Pingchat a better looking interface. Then again, I’m sure there will be loud cries for an option to switch back to the old dark theme. Touch converts also might take issue with the audio, video, and location sharing features that were available in Pingchat but are missing from Touch. This might be a change too dramatic for some to accept.
I have my doubts about this Experience feature catching on, but maybe Touch will surprise us and succeed where other group sharing apps have failed. Existing Pingchat users can update and use the same username and password. Android 1.6 or higher is required to use Touch.