When I think about the lowest common denominator of mobile communications, text messaging follows close behind voice. Obviously, every phone offers voice capability by definition, but texts are nearly as ubiquitous. Email is catching up as consumers leave basic feature phones for smartphones — and many feature phones offer either a native or add-on email solution. But text messaging capability is still farther along in terms of reach across handsets. Brightkite, a location-based social network service knows that, which explains the company’s new GroupText feature.
GroupText reminds me of an old-school party line amongst friends that uses text messaging instead of voice communications. Looking to get a group of friends all together in one location? You could send emails, make phone calls, or use an online invitation service. But I keep coming back to that lowest common denominator of the text message since it’s instant and most everyone has access to the service. GroupText bundles the text message conversation in a chat-like view, making that lowly text function social and powerful — think threaded text messaging with multiple people.
The whole concept is perfect fit for Brightkite, given its location-based bent. If I want to chat with a bunch of folks about a topic, I’ll have the conversation in medium like email. But if I’m simply trying to get a group in one location, I’m going to shoot venue info and other event details in brief text — something I can’t easily do in Foursquare, which is my current LBS service of choice. GroupText doesn’t require my friends to have a Brightkite account, so there’s no mandatory network registration hassle. Each GroupChat can handle 25 friends and responses are sent to all in the group — folks can also attach pics or indicate their location so there’s no need to ask “when are U getting here?” And the entire group interaction is available on the web for those who aren’t currently mobile or for “Monday Morning Quarterbacks” that want to replay the conversation — after a wild night on the town, I see some after-the-fact entertainment value here.
Brightkite recently submitted a software update to Apple (s aapl) that includes the GroupChat feature and anticipates arrival in the iTunes App Store soon. Until then — the lowly text message lives on!
Images courtesy of Brightkite
Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):