GroupMe is a free app that allows you to message multiple people at once. I know what you’re thinking: Yes, you can already text-message multiple people at once–all you have to do is add multiple numbers to the ‘To:’ field in your texting app (even non-smartphones have this ability). GroupMe is different, though. Instead of just letting you send messages to multiple people, it also allows you to have a group conversation.
Let me explain. When you text multiple people at once, all you’re really doing is sending the same message to a bunch of different recipients. However, if any of those people text you back, then their response goes only to you–text messages don’t have a ‘Reply All’ button.
GroupMe is like a default Reply All button. GroupMe sets up a dedicated number for each texting conversation, so when you text multiple people at once, they get a text message from that number. Then, when they reply to the text message, their reply goes to everyone in your GroupMe conversation. So it’s like a group-chatting app, except via text message.
Your friends don’t have to have GroupMe installed for it to work–which is a good thing, because it means that people who don’t have smartphones can also partake in the fun. Only the conversation starter needs to have GroupMe installed. However, if you want to message someone directly through GroupMe, the recipient of the message will need to have the app installed on their phone.
GroupMe isn’t just about texting, though; it also has conference calling, a mapping service (which gives the approximate locations of the other chat participants), and a still-in-beta ‘Ask a Question’ feature.
GroupMe’s main screen looks like a texting app–it has all of your grouped conversations, a search button, a prominent ‘Start a Group’ button, and buttons for Home, Contacts, Featured, and News. The Featured button takes you to a list of GroupMe “partners” (such as the TV show Dexter and the artist Ke$ha) and lets you start groups focused on said partners. The News tab is just a random newsfeed of sorts.
Starting a group is as easy as pressing the green plus button at the bottom of the home screen and adding a couple of worthy contacts. Message them once, and your contacts receive a couple of texts, including a note declaring that they have been added to a group, as well as a list who else is in the group with them. Any member of the group can start a conference call by dialing the phone number your group has been assigned for the duration of your group conversation.
The original conversation starter can also disband the group–but once a group is disbanded, its private group number ceases to exist.
GroupMe is an innovative way to get multiple people involved in one conversation. It can be annoying to have your phone constantly go off whenever someone replies to the group, but the tool and service are great if you’re trying to get a group of people together to meet, or if you have a bunch of friends who really love to talk to one another.