The world of social media app LINE is a big place. It is inhabited by more than 200 million users, and it includes every major feature a modern social media hub can boast. So much so, that it’s hard to tell where LINE is an innovator and where it is an imitator.
It contains text and media chat, multimedia timelines, celebrity and brand interaction, disappearing photographic posts, stickers and image filters, chat rooms, animated masks, social games, and of course, video chat.
It’s available across iOS, Android, and PC, and it is all safely encrypted. And if Facebook hadn’t been invented, and hadn’t so thoroughly taken over the U.S. social media market, LINE would be the best all-in-one social hub available today.
But Facebook is here, it has a powerful video calling app called Messenger, and most of your friends are probably on it–4 out of 5 Americans online today are members–and that leaves LINE looking second-rate.
Some nice video calling tricks aside, LINE just isn’t unique enough to warrant migrating all your contacts across to a new service, and if your friends aren’t there with you, there’s no point being on LINE.
A world of 200 million is pretty lonely when you don’t know anyone.
LINE Video Calling App: The Japanese Facebook
LINE’s Korean creators Naver–the company is based in Japan–have built an online destination that has everything Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Skype feature. There’s also a little Twitter and Facebook thrown in via “official accounts” that let you follow everyone from Taylor Swift to CNN to Family Guy.
The resulting app dominates social media in Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, and Taiwan, but hasn’t made much impression in the U.S. As was mentioned before, that is most likely down to Facebook stealing some of LINE’s thunder, but if you’re not wedded to the American giant it’s worth giving LINE a try.
Be warned, however, LINE is a busy, busy place. The user interface isn’t as slick as Facebook, or as intuitive as Twitter. All those features, the presence of ads, more than 30 add-on apps, and a half dozen different “stores” where you get your latest stickers and selfie tricks, makes LINE tough to navigate at times.
If you’re after a new way to video chat, however, LINE has some nice features.
Video Calling with LINE
LINE beefed up its video call function in December last year by adding group calls. It can only accommodate four people at the moment, but it’s easy to connect across devices and platforms, and you can arrange your chat windows into a variety of alignments. By tapping the top of your iOS or Android screen, you can cycle through a range of chat window setups, be it horizontal or vertical, each particular caller’s place on the grid. In a two-person call you can also switch who has the dominant window and who is reduced to a corner spot.
The most impressive feature, though, is the ability to shrink all your chat windows to a tiny square at the top of your screen and continue using your phone for other tasks.
That means you can surf the net, send an email, or just flick through your image gallery to find that perfect shot you want to share, all while maintaining audio and visual contact with your friends on video chat.
Skewing things toward younger social media users, you can add animated masks and stickers to your conversation. There’s no rainbow vomit, but you can have an animated hand pluck your nostril hairs, should the conversation demand it.
Getting started with LINE video calling is a little cumbersome as you need both your phone number and email, and there are obviously no links to your Facebook friends database. And I did experience some trouble accessing the video functions on an iPhone, but you could give LINE the benefit of the doubt and blame the actual unit–it was smooth sailing on Android and PC.
LINE Is a Solid Social Media App
If you’re prepared to give yourself time to get familiar with LINE’s layout, and to wander through all the different options and features–animated profile pictures are a nice touch–you’ll find the service has more to offer than a more simplified option like WhatsApp.
It’s not the prettiest video calling option out there (Join.me is still on its own in that regard, in my opinion) and it’s certainly not the easiest to join or bring in friends, but it is reliable, and it is broad enough to cater for every social situation. And that ability to still use your phone while video calling can be matched only by Kik.
LINE is free long as you don’t accidentally wander into the sticker store, so you’ve got nothing to lose by asking a few friends to try it out with you. Who knows, you might just prefer it to the Big Brother of social media, Facebook.
Image Source: Flickr CC User Taco Ekkel
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