Conference calls aren’t always the most interesting things to take part in, but they can be just as much a hassle to set up as they are to sit though.
That’s where a new app called GroupCall comes in — developed by the folks over at Parlor, GroupCall aims to make coordinating secure conference calls accessible for folks who just want something that works.
What really makes GroupCall shine is how little work it takes to get your conference calls up and running — there’s no signup or registration required. Once you pop into the app proper, you’re given the option to select users to invite to your conference call by picking them out of your contact list or punching in either their phone number or their email address.
Once all those contacts are in place, GroupCall sends each person an invitation to the call via email or text message with a number to dial at time of the initiator’s choosing. From there, everyone calls in (or skips the call, as is sometimes the case), and that’s that.
Though Parlor is pushing their Android app (their forthcoming iOS version will probably get the same treatment) you don’t even need a smartphone to make use of your gift of gab — conference calls can be set up from the GroupCall website as well.
Parlor founder and CEO Joel Schwartz tells me that he and his team are taking things easy with GroupCall at first, locking down the functionality before adding new features to the mix. I’ve been playing with the Android app for a few days now, while GroupCall’s core works very well, he really wasn’t kidding about the dearth of frills. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be a tough approach to take when other competitors already have a head start.
GroupCall isn’t alone in the simple mobile conference call space — CrowdCall launched earlier this year with the same concept in mind, and has already made quite an impression on at least one prominent unpaid blogger. CrowdCall also packs a few thoughtful additions like the ability to create groups of contacts who frequently engage in conference calls with each other, though GroupCall lets users repeat conference call setups as needed.
What could help GroupCall stand above the others are a pair of related applications working off the same robust backend, which Schwartz tells can handle up to 100,000 concurrent phone calls. Take Parlor’s MobiCast for instance — instead of users all being able to communicate with each other at the same time, they’re all essentially muted except for the person who initiated the call. As the name implies, the call’s initiator becomes the center of attention and effectively broadcasts to all the other participants from their mobile pulpit.
Rounding out the pack is TopicTalk, which is arguably the kookiest of the bunch. Think of it as ChatRoulette without the possibility of seeing something traumatizing — users can jump into the application and select a topic they want to start talk about. Don’t like what your conversation partner has to say? Just hit pound to skip them and move onto someone potentially more interesting.
There’s room for quite a bit of play between these apps — anonymous TopicTalk users can continue their conversations over GroupCall if they aren’t yet comfortable with sharing their actual phone numbers, and popular TopicTalk chatters could host their own show of sorts in MobiCast — but whether or not they’ll stay separate down the line isn’t set in stone. Having the three apps devoted to three separate features of the Parlor platform was done as something of an experiment to see how things play out, but Schwartz tells me that if their users are better suited by one app that encompasses bits of the others, so be it.