Updated from Aug. 3 to include comments from Yahoo! regarding battery life concerns.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With all the messaging services available today from Snapchat to Facebook (FB) - Get Report Messenger, we really didn't need another one to vie for our screen time, but that didn't stop Yahoo! (YHOO) from taking a whack at creating its own.
And after using Yahoo! Livetext since its launch on Thursday, I have to admit it's as weird as I thought it would be -- and also highly entertaining.
Initially it seemed Yahoo! Livetext would be a blatant ripoff of other messaging apps, particularly Snapchat, since it looks exactly like the Snapchat app -- but it's certainly not like the messaging apps I've ever used in the past. The combination of rapid-fire messaging and soundless video makes for an interesting pairing that, once you get use to it, is a lot of fun.
After forcing my friends and family to download the app (available on both Apple (AAPL) - Get Report iOS and Google (GOOG) - Get Report (GOOGL) - Get Report Android) and using it regularly with them over the weekend, I realized there are some real pros to using Yahoo!'s latest creation. But like most things, Yahoo! Livetext also has its downsides.
1. It's creepy.
There's no denying there is some creep factor with using this app.
The concept itself is odd because you're sitting there staring at someone without actually being able to hear them, making it the app version of that that test where you stare silently into someone's eyes and after five minutes you fall in love. While sitting at my desk, I felt silly as people walked by and saw a video stream up, and I definitely got called out for having a random face just chilling next to my day's fifth can of Diet Coke (no shame).
All this being said, the oddity of this app does come with its advantages and is one of the primary reasons I really like it.
My best friend is currently at home in North Carolina, and while I have described my office and colleagues in Manhattan, she's never actually seen or met them. Last week, I decided to take her on a tour of my digs all while my coworkers thought I was texting. It was really funny, especially since she got to see how the people I work act when they don't think they're being captured on tape. I guess I should take this time to apologize to everyone who I secretly videoed, but it was for the good of the review.
2. It's an easy way to show off what you're doing.
While the picture quality is kind of crummy when you're not connected to the Internet, it's not awful, which makes this app fun for on the go. As my boyfriend's family moved into their new home over the weekend, he took me on a firsthand tour of their neighborhood and house while I messaged my thoughts back to him instantly. Since I was at work, it wasn't nearly as obvious that I was slacking off, since I didn't have to throw on headphones and speak directly to him as I commented on how having two fireplaces is excessive.
3. Most importantly, it's almost undeniably entertaining.
There is something bizarrely exciting about being able to see a friend's face as you share a particularly juicy tidbit of gossip or watch him or her laugh as you share a joke. I feel like the conversations I've been having through my Yahoo! Livetext app are more engaging then a traditional text message exchange because each time I look away and look back my friend is glaring at me to respond quicker.
Unfortunately, the app appears to kills your battery. Within 30 minutes of use, my fully charged iPhone had just 20% of its battery life left. My sister noticed a similar problem with her phone, but said that wouldn't keep her from using the app, so long as she had a charger within reach.
(Update: Arjun Sethi, Yahoo! senior director for product management, has responded to the claim that Livetext eats battery very quickly. "Like with any application that is using bandwidth, your battery is affected," Sethi said in a statement. "However, because we've worked hard to focus on how your battery is affected based on frequency of use, we've been able to make constant improvements to battery life and will continue to do so.")
My sister pointed out the app would be particularly useful while riding in a car with her friends for long distances. That way they can show off their progress and have a car charger right there. Additionally, if someone in the car wants to sleep or keep blasting their favorite song at eardrum-busting volume, Yahoo! Livetext wouldn't prevent them from doing so since it's soundless and doesn't require you to disturb others while using it.
Despite the battery-life drawback, the app could be even more entertaining if Yahoo! implemented a few changes.
The notification system is weak. I wish it would buzz or alert me better each time I get a message in a similar to way to when I get a new text message. It's sort of annoying that I have to text my friends to Yahoo! Livetext me because otherwise they wouldn't know they had been messaged. It's frustrating, but seemingly simple to fix.
I don't like the 160-character limit -- this isn'tTwitter (TWTR) - Get Report, it's a messaging app. I'm not saying each message needs to be a novel, but sometimes a thought takes longer to get out than 160 characters.
Yahoo! Livetext could be even more engaging if it had a group chat feature. By far the most demanding of my suggestions, adding a group chat feature would cement Yahoo! Livetext's standing as one of my favorite apps. It's the one feature that I keep wishing was available, so fingers crossed that Yahoo! adds it in the near feature.
Despite my complaints and its ability to drain a battery at superhero pace, Yahoo! Livetext is an incredibly fun app and it's been entertaining to use this past weekend.
And while I won't give up traditional texting or my Snapchat app anytime soon, I'll definitely keep Yahoo! Livetext in the mix.
Final Grade: 8/10