Last week, I talked about using LiveProfile as an alternative to BlackBerry Messenger for those who have switched over from a BlackBerry to another device. One of the drawbacks of LiveProfile was its inability to do group chats. There was no way for you to engage in a group conversation with that app. For group chatting, I started using an app called Beluga Messenger by Beluga, which is now owned by Facebook. Beluga Messenger is another one of those apps that compares itself to BlackBerry Messenger, and to some extent, it is very much like it but in my opinion, it’s a very different kind of app. In fact, Beluga Messenger is one of the most unique messaging apps out there and one that I keep running in the background at all times. Let me explain why.
The first thing you’ll notice about Beluga is that there is no buddy list, or at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, Beluga uses what it calls, Pods. Pods are basically self contained chat rooms where you can invite users to join. To invite users, all you need is there name, email, or phone number. If they are already members of Beluga, an invite is sent to them to join the pod. If not a member yet, they can still join the conversation using text messages or have the option to download the app. It is available for both the iPhone and Android. All members who are invited to join a Pod stay in the Pod until they decide to leave it.
Now, I’m not too sure how other group text apps work, but Beluga does something that I consider to be it’s most useful function. Let’s say you’ve started a Pod and it’s been running for days. Any member of the pod can go back and view the history of the entire conversation within the Pod. That isn’t the exciting part though. The exciting part is that if you wanted to add a new user to the Pod, once that user accepts the invite and enters, they too will be able to see the entire history of what has been going on since the Pod began. This is particularly useful to groups who want to conduct group meetings where not everyone can join at the same time. Those who join in late will be able to catch up with the entire conversation by reading the history. This is also useful to those who might have to leave the conversation for a bit but can return knowing full well that they won’t miss anything important. This one feature alone makes Beluga Messenger one of my most useful apps, especially when having to coordinate with team members.
Some of the more standard features you’d come to expect from a messaging app are here too. Beluga Messenger has push notifications, the ability to attach images to messages, and the ability to include your location with each message. The location feature is particularly interesting though because you can actual map the location of all Pod members on Google Maps. It’s an interesting feature but one that you can turn off if you are worried about your privacy and want to keep your location private.
I mentioned push notifications and I must say, that even when Beluga is not running in the multitasking tray, you will still get all your messages pushed to you. I’ve found this to be way more reliable than using an IM app on my phone and in fact, I’ve started using Beluga Messenger as a text messaging replacement to stay in contact with my wife. This saves me a ton of money on texts.
As stated in the introduction, Beluga was purchased by Facebook. As of today, the only way to register with Beluga in the app is to use your Facebook credentials. This is different from when I first signed up for Beluga and it allowed you to register through Beluga without using Facebook. You can work around this however by registering through their website here instead of through the app. This will allow you to bypass connecting Beluga with Facebook if you are worried about privacy. That was one of the concerns I read on in the comments on the App Store page but again, you can easily work around that.
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Beluga is the best cross-platform messaging app for groups, period.
Like BBM for iPhone & Android.
Like GroupMe, but no text messaging fees.
Like Twitter, but private to your friends.
Why is Beluga different?
– Works with ANY phone
– Native apps for iPhone/Android.
– It’s like Gmail for text messages
– Access your messages from phone or web
– Never lose your chat history again
– Share photos and locations
With Beluga, you can quickly create private groups (pods) to stay in touch with your friends, coordinate plans, and share your life. Beluga lets you send and receive instant updates, location info and photos, all via push notification, with NO TXT messaging fees. When everyone is on the run, use Beluga to stay in sync!
Beluga is perfect for:
– Staying in touch with family and close friends.
– Planning a nights out & other events
– Making spontaneous plans
– Keeping up with all your different circles of friends
– Pods are completely private — no over-sharing.
– Send as many messages as you want — no text messaging fees.
– Full multi-way communication — everyone in a pod sees every update.
– Real-time alerts using Apple push notifications
– Control alert settings for each individual pod
– Share photos and location with your pods
– Invite anyone in your contacts list with an email or mobile phone
– Add a member to a pod at any time to instantly loop them in to the conversation
– Access your pods from anywhere on any device with a web browser.
– Supports any iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad running iOS 3.1 or later
[via App Store]