Cola launches its app for smarter, more interactive text messages

Do you sometimes get the feeling that you’re having a looooooong text conversation to accomplish some fairly simple planning? I’ve certainly had tedious back-and-forths where I’m trying to figure out when to meet with someone, and then where, and so on.

That’s the problem that a startup called Cola is looking to solve. I first wrote about the company in November, when it announced its private beta. Today, it’s publicly launching its iOS app.

Cola is a messaging app, but with “Cola Bubbles” that add more interactivity and functionality. So instead of texting someone “Hey, when do you want to meet?” you can just send them a Bubble with three times when you’re available, they can choose the option or options that work for them, then you can both add it to your calendar. Or if you’re running late, instead of typing out a message describing where you are and when you’ll arrive, you can just opt to share your location with someone for 15, 30 or 60 minutes.

Other Bubbles include polling and shared to-do lists. None of these things might sound all that unique on their own, but the point is make this all accessible from a text message conversation, rather than requiring you to open a bunch of different apps. (And yes, you can send Bubbles to people who don’t have the Cola app.)

Cola Introduction Video from Cola on Vimeo.

Cola CEO David Temkin said that in some ways, he sees text messaging as the next web browser. (Temkin previously worked at AOL, which owns TechCrunch — in fact, he worked on TechCrunch’s mobile app.) That may sound a little far-fetched, but he argued that many of the features that you now find in mobile apps could move into messaging, in the same way that a lot of the functionality of desktop applications moved onto the web.

To that end, he said these initial features are just the start. The aim is to turn Cola into a platform for outside developers — first by working directly with those developers, and eventually by releasing a public SDK.

On the consumer side, the bigger question may be whether people are really willing to download another messaging app. Temkin admitted that it’s a question he gets a lot, but he argued that most people use multiple messaging apps already (something that was borne out anecdotally at least when we both checked how many messaging apps we had on our phones) — you use different apps for different purposes, contexts and contacts.

“Messaging apps are never done,” he added. “They are the core function of these devices. They will never stop evolving.”

Cola is available for free, with plans to charge for premium features.