PREVIEW: CloudTalk app (iPhone)

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This is a guest post from Shiny Shiny’s Anna Leach.

CloudTalk messenger
is a multimedia group chat room that lets you use your voice to talk to people without actually having to pin them down in a phone call. It’s voice messaging for people who don’t like phone calls, and it has collected impressive amounts in venture funding – $5.2 million.

“Cloudtalk fills the gap between telephony and text messaging” CEO David Hayden told us. “And does Voicemail as it should have been made.”

I was initially pretty sceptical about whether we needed anything in between phone calls and text messaging, but completely agreed with Hayden that voicemail could do with a serious overhaul. An app for iPhone, iPad, Android and Ovi, Cloudtalk promises to put voice back at the centre of how we communicate.

My mind was changed when we previewed the new version of the app a few weeks back. Here is David’s pitch and my first impressions:

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The Pitch

1) “Cloudtalk fills the gap between telephony and text messaging, it’s voicemail as it should have been made.

2) Nicely organised multimedia chat: text, pictures, videos and audios are all streamed into one conversation thread with profile pictures for each participant, it’s easy to read, watch and listen to..

3) Group chat: The conversation streams let you add thousands of people to one conversation.

4) Beta testers use it lots: They back up their pitch with info from their 40,000 beta users, who according to their results went from communicating 100% via text and voice calling to using CloudTalk 40% of the time.

5) Teenagers use it lots: they tried with lots of under 14s who loved it.

6) It’s different from Skype: …because you don’t have to be in a certain place at a certain time.

7) It’s different from Twitter: …because you can add audio and video, and because it’s more about interaction and conversation than just broadcasting.

8) It’s different from Facebook: …because it’s open and more interactive and dynamic.

The Good Bits

1) Nice clear multimedia interface: laid out like Facebook or text messages, it makes group chat easy to see and understand and the multimedia elements flow seamlessly into the threads.

2) Voice is intimate and compelling: it means more than a text message, it lets you get more emotion and connection to the person leaving it.

3) It can be easier to leave a voice message than a text: if you’re walking, or driving for example.

4) Conversations are embeddable:This is one for the bloggers – but being able to pick up the embed code is a really useful idea – kind of better than Twitter as well.

5) Cheaper than actual voicemail : on the majority of smartphone data plans, sending a voice message over the internet is going to be cheaper than using up your minutes.

6) Works well on Tablets: It looks good on iPad. And it brings a little voicemail and phone functionality to the iPad which is useful.

7) Syncs across devices: handily Cloudtalk is available on mobiles, tablets, the web and all conversations flow into one place.

8) Big potential for partners: A location-based social dating app AtZip is just one of the partners who wants to use their platform for their own service. On AtZip, people can record voice replies to other people’s posts and give other members a better sense of their personalities.

9) Freemium model: the basic service is free, an ad-free service is ten pounds a month. I like freemiums.

The Bad Bits

1) Variable quality of audio: depending on the recording device and the playback device, the quality of the audio is quite variable – and can actually be quite bad.

2) Moderation: Cloudtalk facilitates open chat rooms, and where there are open chatrooms, there are people looking for cybersex and pictures of breasts. So it’s little surprise that well over 50% of the most popular conversations are adult-orientated. They have various mechanisms for policing rooms you set up yourself but it does mean that the open conversations on the app are heavily tilted towards adult content.

3) I don’t like listening to stuff that isn’t music: this is a personal one, but I prefer to read stuff: it’s quicker, it’s easier to scan to the bit you’re interested in and if you want to search for it later, it’s easier because there are written words involved.
Listening takes a lot more of my attention. Though I don’t know, maybe I’ll start to store voice clips from my friends the way I store pictures of them. There is something about the intimacy of hearing people’s voices that undeniable appeal to the soul though.

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Conclusion

I was interested by this service and the demo of the new service overcame my initial doubts. I did get a few “ooh” moments about the experience of being able to stream different types of media into the same conversation so easily. Voice is such a natural way for humans to communicate that it makes sense to work out a way that it can be utilised on the internet. More still needs to be done to make audio files interesting though – we need tagging, better quality, maybe some visual way of representing what’s in an audio file.

Cloudtalk also faces the looming danger of video too. What if Facetime really takes off? If voice is more engaging than text, then video is more engaging again. Is there really a place for voice between convenient searchable text messages and engaging video content? We’ll find out I guess.

But in the meantime, this is fun and free – download it!

Cloudtalk is available for free in the iTunes app store now.

Gerald Lynch

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