Chatting Is Great, But GroupMe’s Mobile Apps Now Let Users Split Payments, Too

While the folks at GroupMe have spent some time exploring the world outside group messaging, they certainly haven’t given up on refining the formula that made them so appealing in the first place. Earlier today, GroupMe pushed out a pair of considerable updates that add some curious (and tremendously thoughtful) features to the company’s iOS and Android apps.

As you’d expect these updates play host to a few minor tweaks and bugfixes (they’re apparently so minor GroupMe won’t even lay them out on its blog) but two new features are the real stars of the show here.

First up is GroupMe’s new gallery view — rather than forcing users to scroll upstream through scores of old messages in search of previously shared photos, the app now lets them view all those photos in one fell swoop. Useful, sure, but nothing all that weighty. More importantly, GroupMe users can now include what the company calls a “Split” into any conversation — as the name sort of implies, it’s a way for users to quickly add expenditures in hopes that the rest of the group will chip in.

Users can either set up the expense as a fixed goal that group members can contribute to, or as a set dollar amount that each person must contribute, and the actual payments are handled by YC-backed Balanced. Aside from learning which of your compatriots are unrepentant cheapskates, the caveats are few — the first transaction could take up to 3 to 5 days to clear with a user’s bank, and the inevitable contributor fees ($0.99 plus 4.0% of the total amount) will kick in on March 12.

Granted, there’s really no shortage of cute ways to split a payment these days (consider PayByGroup and PayDivvy, just to name a few) but baking that sort of functionality directly into a messaging application is an awfully savvy move. After all, GroupMe is already providing a useful way for multiple people to communicate and get things done — further enhancing that ability to get things done by adding support for in-app payments could help cement GroupMe as something more substantial than just another media-centric messaging app.