GroupMe pushed an update to its Android app on Tuesday, bringing a slew of new features and a redesign, including an emphasis on direct messaging. The update, which brings the app to version 5.0, also includes in-line GIFs and a welcome improvement to battery efficiency.
Other apps have added direct messaging features in the past year, including Snapchat and Instagram. GroupMe actually has supported direct messaging to other users with the app for a while, but this update brings it to the forefront, adding a Contacts tab on the left hand side and allowing any user to simply swipe during a group chat to start a one-on-one. Direct chats also end up in the main chat archive among the group chats.
It’s important to remember GroupMe’s genesis as a way to easily wrangle large groups through SMS messages. In fact, there still is support for group chats through texts, but direct messages can only go to someone with an account and the app — otherwise, you could just text them. In the wake of WhatsApp’s acquisition by Facebook, any social service with a good chunk of users is underscoring direct messaging as a major feature. We’re reaching messaging app feature parity. After all, everyone wants to be the one messaging app that rules them all.
You have to assume that a user with GroupMe installed on an Android device has several options for text-based communication, so it’s hard to imagine someone downloading GroupMe simply for direct messaging. But it’s certainly convenient for users, especially if they’re already using GroupMe to communicate with several people at once.