Lately it seems like software developers are falling all over themselves to take the hassles out of conference calls.
For example, MobileDay makes it easier to join a conference call from your smartphone, while FreeConference Mobile lets you set up calls on the run. Then there's Speek, which positions itself as the easiest conference-call service of them all.
Now comes UberConference, a seriously impressive service that lets you set up and host conference calls right from your smartphone. It's packed with clever features, and the basic service is free—but it also suffers from an almost tragic flaw.
The UberConference app is available for Android and iOS. You can sign up for service via an existing Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn account, or just go the old e-mail address/password route. Either way, you'll need to allow access to your smartphone contact list.
From there, setting up a call is literally as easy as choosing attendees from that list, then tapping Start UberConference. Everyone you select will then get a call, email, and/or text message (depending on what contact information you have for them) inviting them to the conference—no PINs or registration required.
However, and here's where the app is immediately frustrating, you can't designate what methods to use to notify these contacts (only email, for example), nor can you specify which phone number the service should use for any given contact. Consequently, your invitees get blasted all at once via phone, e-mail, and SMS, and the phone call might not even go to the correct line.
Think about it: It's a good bet that you have both office and mobile numbers for most of your co-workers, right? Maybe you even have some home numbers mixed in there as well. Do you really want every one of their lines to ring whenever you invite them to a call? If I'm the callee, the answer is a definite "no."
Furthermore, for the moment, UberConference limits you to instant conference calls; you can't schedule them for, say, 30 minutes from now, or 10 a.m. Tuesday. (A company rep told me scheduling will be added in the near future.)
I'm frustrated by all this, because UberConference has some really slick features once you're actually on a call. For example, you not only get a visual overview of everyone who's on the call, but you also get to see who's talking at any given time. No more "Who just said that?" confusion.
You can also add, remove, mute, and "earmuff" callers, this last option temporarily blocking the call audio for selected individuals. UberConference emails you a detailed summary after the call is over and gives you the option of recording each call in easy-to-share MP3 format.
A free UberConference account entitles you to unlimited calls with up to five participants, though you can "earn" more by linking to various social-network accounts, importing your contacts, and so on. If you want call recording, outbound dialing (which, come to think of it, is perhaps better avoided), a local number, and up to 40 people on each call, UberConference Pro will cost you $10 per month.
I think that's pretty reasonable, and I absolutely love some of the service's in-call features. But until it gives you more (or any) control over how, where, and when your contacts get contacted, I just can't see using it.