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App Review: Yahoo Livetext

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The fact that Yahoo have managed to stay consistently relevant, despite not having been anywhere near the top of the internet tree in well over a decade is fairly impressive. They seem quietly confident that, despite living in the shadow of so many other social media and tech giants, anything new they bring out will accrue enough popularity to be worth while.

Such was the case with the undramatic release of their new 'Livetext' app last week. Livetext is a message app that incorporates video, but rather than sending short video clips like Snapchat or Velfie, or opening up a full feed like Facetime, the video is muted and the chat is entirely text based. The guiding principle seems to be that, unlike other text-based chat, this one allows you to react in real time, eliminating any need for emojis.

This seems to be the mindset governing a lot of text-based chat apps and features of late, whether it's video, emojis or GIFs, developers are playing around with different approaches to bringing emotional context into text chat. A muted video feed running behind text chat does afford other advantages. Facetime requires you to actually talk, which in a public setting can sometimes be embarrassing or otherwise difficult, Livetext sidesteps this obstacle. More to the point, it more or less eliminates any worry you might have about people reading texts over your shoulder, since the moment they try, they will appear in your video feed.

The concept alone was enough to make us interested here at Songbird, so me and a few others all downloaded the app and gave it a spin. The first thing it asks you to do is verify your phone number, once that's done all you need to is pick a user ID, profile image and contact name and you're away. Adding people can be done via your contacts or you can search for specific user IDs, much like Snapchat. Once contacts are added you can start up a conversation with them at any time. If they aren't active you can still message them, prompting a push notification to be sent, but those are turned off as default so you have to go into settings to enable them (and trust that everybody else is doing the same).



Once you're actually in a chat, the top half of the screen is taken up by your friend's camera feed, with the keyboard below (as you can see above). Your camera feed is represented by a little circle in the top corner; tapping it flips between cameras. The text is quite large and takes up a pretty significant portion of the screen, there are no settings to change the size or appearance of it, so if the chat becomes quite rapid and elongated the view does get fairly obscured. There is no group chat, as such, you have to leave the 'room' in order to check if you have any messages from anyone else, which could make maintaining multiple chats at the same time rather tricky. It's probably best to treat the chats almost like phone calls and devote your focus to one at a time.

If you are messaging someone who is inactive, you just get your own camera feed until they come online, which throws you back into the top corner. Nothing is saved, the video isn't actually recording and the text vanishes, so memory usage isn't any kind of issue. It seems like kind of a gimmicky app at first, but the more you use it, the more potential you realise it has. Beyond just imbuing otherwise cold text with vital context, it could work brilliantly if you're trying to find someone in a crowd and it's too loud to hear anything properly, for example. It's by no means perfect, the notification system is pretty limited and group chat would be a really useful addition, but it's a good start, definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Overall, we're giving Livetext a Songbird Rating of 3 stars out of 5.




Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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App Review: Yahoo Livetext Reviewed by Callum Davies on Wednesday, August 05, 2015 Rating: 5

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