Beluga: Android App Review

by on Monday, February 14th, 2011

Beluga

 

Cost: Free {Android Market}

Version tested: 1.64
By: Beluga Inc.

Beluga is a new messaging app that was created by three former ex-Googlers. Where other apps have come close or failed, this cross-platform (iPhone and Android) app seems to be on target to perfect group messaging, or as they coin it, “pods.”


Features

  • Groups are private, you choose who you want in your pod
  • Completely free – messages are sent via data plan, no text messaging fees
  • Push notifications
  • Photo and location sharing
  • Access your pods through your device OR with a web browser
  • Control alert settings for each individual pod
  • Ability to include friends who don’t have the app (they will receive text messages and can join in on the fun)

The way these notifications are delivered to your phone perhaps needs some fine tuning. Your phone will be notified immediately when someone sends a message in any of your pods. With the Android, this could be a sound, a vibration, a blinking LED, or any combination of the three. If you happen to be a member in a very active pod, you’ll find your battery draining faster than usual. Thanks to a recent update, Android users can mute notifications for one hour, mute them until 8am, or disable notifications altogether. I’m hoping this is more of a temporary solution. It would be nice to set the times when notifications come through.

Usefulness

Once you get started with Beluga, you’ll want to create pods with friends without any specific topic. However, you’ll discover that the app can be a key communication tool between your different social and professional groups. I’m a member of several pods, including one where we discuss lunchtime plans and another where we plan happy hour’s. There’s even a pod for us writers at Matters of Grey, discussing future topics, article reviews, and scheduling.

Suggestions

  • Add features for web version: upload photos or at least make it so I can simply hit ENTER to send a message
  • Status changes: “Available” or “Busy” – Pod members would be notified accordingly
  • Widget support: Either display latest messages or display favorite pods

For being just under two months old, Beluga has already positioned itself as the next big thing in the line of “killer apps.” There is buzz that it will be THE breakthrough app at SXSW 2011, which would have it follow in Twitter and Foursquare’s footsteps.

Screenshots