Sometimes you just want vanilla ice cream.
Sometimes you just want to get where you’re going on time.
Sometimes you just want to say hello to someone you haven’t seen in awhile through your phone. Which is lucky for the makers of JusTalk, because that’s pretty much all you’ll get
That, and the ability to draw some Crayola-level fake glasses on your beloved.
But then, not every app has to be a statement about the cutting-edge of technology, and JusTalk does a good enough job of bringing people face-to-face across the void to have earned millions of downloads.
Vanilla ice cream is pretty popular, after all.
Setting It Up: No Assembly Required
I have to confess, my family doesn’t use JusTalk very often. There are several video chat apps on my phone–they’re free and only take up around 70-100 mb, so why not–and this one usually only gets called upon when the kids want to draw all over granny’s face from across the country.
And that’s just what JusTalk is for: easy personal video chatting without a whole lot of heavy extras to weigh it down.
And it’s ready to go straight out of the box.
I set up the app on my partner’s iPhone 6–I currently use it on my Samsung and the Android experience is much the same–for the purposes of getting a refresher on how to get started with JusTalk. And it is a darn straightforward process.
Once I’d downloaded the app, and read through a few of the rather ominous messages about the recent downtime the app suffered, it was easy to upload contacts from the phone–or you could use Facebook–and let JusTalk tell me if the person was already equipped to chat.
A word of warning during the setup process: make sure to allow call notifications, or you’ll have to have the app open to know if someone is trying to contact you (which would make it pretty useless).
And it’s JusTalk members only for this app, so you’ll have to spread the word if you want to use it with your friends.
But that’s pretty simple. You just type in your desired video companion’s contact listing and a message containing a direct link to the JusTalk app will be sent to them like any other text message.
A Few Fun Perks
This is not a professional video calling app, but for basic social calls, it does have all you need.
It’s true there’s no document sharing or screen sharing with the service, although you can send images from your phone’s memory, and the audio and visuals work best in one-on-one situations.
For your basic friend-to-friend video call, though, it’s not a bad design. The chat screen is kept nice and clean, enough so you get a good look at the person you’re calling (it’s best to do away with your own chat window as it’s really too small to be of any use).
The app offers HD (780p) visuals over a variety of networks and wi-fi, and I’ve not encountered any major lag problems in the few times I’ve used it.
And there are a few built-in features that give you some sense of exploration when you first use JusTalk. For starters, there’s a record function that lets you capture the important snippets from your chat and store them within the app.
JusTalk also includes a Night Vision feature that does actually illuminate the other end of the call so you can see clearer in dimly lit situations.
Finally, there’s the all-important doodle function. Here you can draw all over each other’s screens to brighten up that aforementioned Granny’s makeup. You can also send a doodled image over the phone as a humorous way of initiating a call.
It’s a cute function, and it’s what attracted me, and probably many other parents, to the service in the first place, but ultimately JusTalk slipped out of the video chat rotation because it’s just a little limited.
Fun, If Not Terribly Fulfilling
Bottom line, if you’re looking for a well-rounded smartphone video chat service, then you’ll get more use out of other free apps.
Which is why it doesn’t get much use from me. There’s just more to play with elsewhere.
Tango, for instance, delivers the same cute factor with masks, avatars, and games, but goes much further in providing additional content, including partnerships with Spotify, Buzzfeed, and Vimeo.
Even Viber lets you get silly with emoticons and emojis while video calling, but it has the added bonus of working across PCs, tablets, and smartphones, albeit within the Windows 10 world.
Google Hangouts and Skype may be too big to get excited about, but both offer practical functions that give them the edge over JusTalk. Primarily that’s because they go beyond the social to integrate with professional needs by offering things like document sharing and collaboration, so you don’t need a million different apps on your phone to take care of these different aspects of your life.
If you’re not interested in all of those extras than JusTalk is a fine choice. You could certainly do worse–was FaceTime created just to test our patience?–but I’ve found you can also do a lot better.