I often get asked why we almost never write about Android apps here on Beautiful Pixels. I keep getting reminded via email that Google did some remarkable restructuring in Android 4.0 and that the UI and visual changes they introduced were a big change towards a better user experience on Android. While I was quite happy to see Google bring in these changes with Android 4.0 and introduce the official Android Design, where developers could learn to make beautiful Android apps, I was never able to get a first hand experience of the app ecosystem as I didn’t have an Android phone and every effort of mine to contact Google or the OEMs was fruitless. So about two weeks ago, I finally decided to get my hands on a Galaxy Nexus. I’ve been using it as my primary phone and have come across quite a few good apps on the platform. I’ll be writing about my experience with it in detail on Nuclear Bits (my new personal blog) soon.
A few days ago, I was introduced to Hike, a brilliant new messaging app by BSB (which is a Bharti SoftBank JV set up in India). Hike is a cross-platform messaging service that lets you send and receive free messages from your friends and family. The company has first introduced the Android app on the Play Store and plans to launch apps for the other platforms very soon. Hike uses you phone number as an ID and instead of using your cellular connection, it uses your data to transmit these messages. I know what you’re thinking, this sounds a lot like the already popular messaging service WhatsApp. But there are two very important features that set Hike apart from WhatsApp.
First, is the design (why else would it be here?). Hike’s Android app features a UI very clean, minimal and downright elegant. The color scheme and textures used in the app are fantastic and the app looks excellent on my phone. The conversation view is simple & uses text bubbles that are neatly laid out, so the view remains clutter free and is easy to read for the eyes. There are real-time notifications/receipts for messages sent, received or read and Hike will even tell you when the person on the other end is typing something. Overall, the team has done some fantastic work on the app’s design and it’s definitely commendable. I wish at least a few Android apps take note of this.
The second feature that makes Hike better than WhatsApp is that Hike lets you message pretty much any recipient, even if he does not have the app installed on his phone. Hike uses its own SMS Gateway to send these messages, so your recipient can even be someone without a smartphone. You get a monthly quota of 100 messages to begin with, which can be extended by inviting someone to the service. Unfortunately, this feature only works in India right now. Very similar to iMessage, Hike will distinguishes between an SMS and a Hike message by using Green and Blue colors respectively in text field while typing.
Other features of Hike include Emoticons support and smart spam filtering, with the ability to block any user. Surprising, the ability to share images is missing from the app.
I am told that the company is currently working on the iOS app, which should be ready in the coming weeks. Since the app seems to be targeted towards the Indian market, it made sense to introduce the Android app before the iOS app. Having seen how beautiful the Android app is now, I can’t wait to try their iOS version. You can download the Android app from the Play Store.
Update: I just had a chat with the developers and I’m told that two big features that are next on the roadmap are Group Chat (even with non-hikesters) and File Transfers, both arriving “within a month”.