This is a bit like catching up with an old friend…only to find they’ve aged spectacularly.
We’ve long been a fan of BlueJeans video conferencing. We included it among our favorite video conferencing software vendors of the year, praised it for its user-friendly, professional approach, discussed its use of integrated “smart” apps, and placed it in a neck-and-neck race with Zoom to be the best affordable small business video call platform.
Now, we’re returning to the platform to take a look at how the 2018 BlueJeans update has affected the app. Earlier this year, BlueJeans launched its Desktop 2.0 app as part of a wider UI overhaul and update, and we’re glad to report the initiative is one that deserves the old advertising standard, “new and improved.”
While some nit-picky issues remain–things are still a little drab to the eye and there’s no basic free version–the BlueJeans user experience has generally been enhanced through a commitment to one-touch user interactions and innovations such as browser-based calling and a greater range of third-party connections.
Most importantly for the small business crowd, it remains cheap and easy to use.
The BlueJeans Update Brings Cleaner Video Conferencing
BlueJeans has long known that the secret to growing your video conferencing audience is to keep things simple. The 2018 version takes that idea to new lengths. The BlueJeans update strips away much of the clutter that once hovered around the periphery of the main call screen. Where once an entire column was lost to icons, now only a few key pieces remain, with the rest tucked up behind a Settings tab. Key features such as video recording (which is now far easier to activate, access, and share during meetings) and chat are still just a click away, but now they feel more like options rather than features being shoved in your face.
The surrounding video portal is still stuck in a grey facsimile of every other standard video caller you’ve come across–Skype set a precedent few have challenged–but there are some new options for the way you present group calls. Given that even the basic version of BlueJeans allows up to 50 participants on a call, you can choose to display the video chat as a central screen with a line of thumbnails along the bottom, a dominant single chat window that uses active speaker technology to display whoever currently has the floor, or a multi-window array that gives everyone equal standing (these are similar set-up options to those offered by Skype and Zoom).
The overall result of all of this is a cleaner visual and functional feel to the main video calling display, which is where you’re going to be spending most of your time. Away from the action, though, there are a lot of new features behind the scenes, including the rapid-fire launch of browser-based video calling.
WebRTC Video Calling
Browser-based video calling is the sleek future of video conferencing. With technology such as WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication), you can join and launch a video meeting without any downloads, plugins, or secondary apps. It’s basically an agreement by the major web browsers to allow developers to use their platforms’ built-in capabilities to stage a video call. In BlueJeans’ hands, it lets you invite non-members to instantly join a video meeting–you just send them a meeting link and they can launch the meeting straight from their email. It’s great for bridging the divide between users of different video vendors, and it works well here. In fact, we experienced greater clarity through WebRTC than on the main app, perhaps a fluke of connectivity, but an endorsement of browser calling nonetheless.
The new BlueJeans is full of nice add-ons like that, including the ability to screen share specific windows/apps rather than your entire desktop, as well as improved moderator options that make it easier to control large group meetings.
BlueJeans has also improved its links to outside forces, a move which helps make it more than just a video calling platform.
Video Calling as Part of Your Working World
Perhaps the most powerful trend in video calling today is its integration into the broader working world. Spearheaded by Slack and Microsoft Teams, this new form of workplace collaboration places every employee at the center of a communications hub that handles everything from project documents and schedules to instant messaging and video.
BlueJeans has integrated with a number of outside companies to ensure its app can be part of a complete communication package. There are links to the two aforementioned industry leaders, Slack and Teams, as well as to Facebook Workplace.
Finally, there are also some more tangible partnerships that aid performance. Dolby Voice has been added to boost audio; Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa can be used for voice commands from related speakerphones; there are whiteboard and annotation apps; there’s even an automated note-taking meeting assistant that can record, prioritize, and distribute the minutes from a call.
In short, BlueJeans has grown up and learned to bring the best of the outside world into its own app. We’d still like to see a workable free version for the shallow end of the consumer market–even Microsoft has decided to make its service available for free–but at least the subscription price has remained among the cheapest on the market.
Overall, the 2018 BlueJeans updates are a welcome mix of improvements and integrations that make it feel like the platform is keeping up with the times. We’d still gladly recommend you give the app a try, and we’re going to keep checking in on our digital friend as the years roll on.
Note that while this site is sponsored by Logitech, reviews contain the writer’s own opinions and are not influenced by the views of our sponsor.