Instant messaging apps are now being designed to offer a mix of social, voice and text functions in one neat package. Line is one such feature-loaded app that supports all leading mobile platforms. Built by the Japanese arm of Naver, the application has been fairly popular in US, UK, China and other south-east Asian countries. This app was born as a means of communication when a disastrous earthquake hit Japan and devastated its communication system. It recently entered the Indian terrain (developed by Line Corporation, Japan). We have tested Line for the Android platform. Read on to know how it fares in the fierce competitive space of socially-inclined instant messaging apps.
Unlike WhatsApp, which comes with absolutely no frills, Line has a comprehensive set of features. In spite of being loaded with features, the user interface of the Line app is pretty neat. The homepage clearly indicates that Line is a social messaging app with sections like Friends, Timeline, Chats and More. Under “More”, one will find Settings, series of games (each game needs to be downloaded seperately from the app store), Sticker shop and Line Camera (download seperately). Icons for Line games and Line Camera are integrated within the app. Once you click on them, the app will re-route users to the app store to download them.
Call and message interface
To begin with, one can edit the user profile by choosing the display name and uploading a display photo. However, just like Facebook, there is a cover image in addition to the display photo. However, it is automatically set by Line with a random image. There’s an “add a friend” icon on the upper right corner of the homepage. This icon opens up to a comprehensive page to guide and allow users to add friends and create groups. Here, you will also find options like “Shake it” and "Barcode scanning". The “Friends” section automatically populates with all your friends who are using the Line app. Others can be invited via SMS or email. Once you tap on a name in the “Friends” section, the pop-up box shows options to chat or make a free phone call to that person. The interface also shows the Timeline section, which lets you create posts and also view posts submitted by your friends.
The messaging interface has been kept minimal with a row of icons on the lower side of the screen. The “+” icon is to add photos, videos, contact info or share location, followed by the emoticons icon (this icon also includes emojis, stickers and emoticons) and call button. On making a call, the interface shows mute and speaker options.
All in all, the interface is slick and straightforward. Navigating across the app won’t be a problem, and one will easily and quickly get a hang of it.
Features and performance
To get started, users will have to register with their phone number. Once the number is verified (automatically), Line will ask users to agree to a set of terms and conditions. It will also display the optional email registration screen. If you choose to register via email, it will help to access profile info, friends info, groups etc. even if you change the phone number or device.
In the Friends section, you can mark frequently accessed numbers as "Favourites" so that they will be placed in a separate easily accessible group. The “Shake it” (wherein you have to shake the NFC-enabled phone) helps search for other Line users in the vicinity by using the location information of the device.
Timeline feature for Line
On adding a friend, you can instantly begin a chat or make free calls to him/her. Just like most of the messengers, Line lets user send contact info, videos and location, and photos from the gallery or a freshly clicked picture using the stock or Line Camera app. It also lets users send audio messages. While messaging, it has a host of emoticons, emoji (Japanese term for the ideograms or smileys; they look just like emoticons) and stickers. In fact, a unique feature of the app is the ability to gift cool stickers to others. In fact, Line claims to have made a lot of moolah selling these stickers. Some stickers are free to download while others require “coins” (in-app purchase currency). Users need to buy packages from the Sticker shop to own coins. One can buy coins for a price range starting from $1.99 to $46.99. However, the sticker gifting ability is no more supported by iOS version of the app.
We made free voice calls within the city and also to friends in other states over Wi-Fi. One has to remember that there is no free lunch. So ensure that you have a good Internet plan if you are making calls over 3G. The call quality was low and a couple of times we were slapped with an error that read "instable connection". If the other person doesn’t answer your call, the app instantly gives the option to leave an audio message. While on a call over Line, we could still receive SIM-enabled phone calls from others. However, even if we chose to disconnect the phone call and continue with the Line call, it didn’t let us do so. The Internet call made using Line also gets disconnected as soon as you disconnect an incoming telecom call on your device.
The Timeline lets users post updates, photos, videos, links and location. It’s just like posting updates on Facebook (not literally). The phone won’t show any notifications of the timeline or even new friends unless you open the Line app. But once you open the app, it indicates notifications and new friends just as Facebook. There are options to "Like" a post and add comments too.
The Line app is like a complete package for text messaging and making free calls. It is loaded with features and also adds a social angle with the Timeline option. The stickers are cool, but we doubt Indian audiences will be willing to pay an amount ranging between Rs 119 to Rs 2,800 to buy them. Also, Line is a cross-platform app with support for almost all popular OSes such as Android, iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. It also has web applications for Windows PC and Mac. Lastly, the call quality with Skype or Viber is way better than Line. However, unlike Skype, Line doesn’t require the user to create an account and add people with Line IDs. Line is really simple and hassle-free. The call quality was low, but we wouldn’t call it bad. In a nutshell, Line is a very decent attempt at creating a socially-inclined instant messaging app and definitely worth a try.
Download Line for Android here.
Download Line for BlackBerry here.
Download Line for iOS here.
Download Line for Windows Phone here.