Review: Group Me
Launched in time for South by Southwest in 2011, GroupMe was one of the 'share messages with a group of people' applications that hoped to help organise discussions with your peers, friends, and family. Some of them disappeared, others were bought out and absorbed into larger networks, and it feels like GroupMe is 'last man standing', even after its purchase by Skype (and susequently turned over to Microsoft).
Version Reviewed: 188.8.131.52
For those of you new to applications like this, the goal is to have groups of people who can share messages between each other. Think of mixing a full chat room with multiple occupants, alongside the power of SMS and push messaging, and you're there.
This might not seem like a world-changing idea, and I would agree with you. On first glance, GroupMe offers little more than a way to bundle SMS messages together to tell everyone when they need to be at the pub after work. And I was right with you, thinking the same thing, until the real world got in the way and proved GroupMe to be a useful application.
First up is the simple fact that it's far easier to organise your groups in this application than anywhere else. Yes, you have the People Hub on Windows Phone, and that negates GroupMe to a small extent, but that group is only available to you, and if you switch devices, you'll need to create it again.
Which is the second great reason for using GroupMe. It's available for multiple platforms. There's no assumption that all your friends need to have a Windows Phone to take part in the sharing, they can be on Android, iOS, or Blackberry devices.
The final one is perhaps less of a bullet point depending on your contract, which is the choice of using either SMS to act as the message transport mechanism, or push data using your data allowance, giving you the choice. One of them will be cheaper to use, and thankfully it's easy to switch them. One thing to consider though is that SMS is a touch more reliable than the push data option, so have a look at your mobile operator tariff to see if text is available.
This is the second major version of GroupMe, and last month debuted a big overhaul of the Windows Phone version, essentially 'metro-fying' the whole experience. That means your groups are now represented inside the application through the tile metaphor, you can pin groups to your home screen as live tiles, the application is integrated into the address book and it works with the sharing system built into Windows Phone to share images around people in a group.
Using Metro certainly makes a difference. It should be obvious that following the Metro style guide will actually help an application because people will know how to use it and they don't have to make a mental jump when opening up the application, so I'm happy to see this switch has been made. And with fast-app switching, live tiles and the alert bar at the top of the screen, GroupMe makes it easy to keep on top of the messages.
It is a secondary application, sitting alongside email and messaging, and it's not going to appeal every one. A lot depends on the groups you interact with and if you need a cross platform group texting facility it's one of the smoothest solutions. Don't reject GroupMe out of hand, have a play around with it and see if it works for you and your friends.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at