In our weekly series, Ware of the Week, we showcase our favourite organised lines of code from the world of mobile and desktop computing. In today’s edition, we profile an app that took SXSW by storm and challenged the likes of Twitter for the mobile streaming crown — Meerkat. If you missed our previous Ware of the Week winner, catch it below.
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Live mobile streaming has suddenly become a big potential business. With the current crop of flagship and mid-range smartphones boasting some incredible camera technology, there hasn’t really been a better time for the industry to take off.
A few weeks ago, an app was launched at Austin, Texas’ famed SXSW all-sorts convention, and practically owned it. That’s right, everyone jumped on the Meerkat bandwagon like it was the best thing since sliced bread was shoved into a toaster. And you know what, these people were right.
Although Twitter has its own challenger in this space, dubbed Periscope, there’s something about Meerkat that I just can’t seem to shake. Is it the “support the underdog” complex? Is it because big corporations are practically owning the web? Not entirely. It’s because Meerkat is just a damn good app.
What is it?
Having spent a vast majority playing in Apple’s orchards, the app has finally been released for the Android folk and subsequently beat Twitter’s Periscope to the punch too.
In a nutshell, Meerkat plugs into Twitter (ironically) and recently Facebook, and lets users of these social networks announce that they’re about to live stream video from their mobile device. It’s different to a service like LiveStream, because it piggy-backs off the success and sheer social crowd of arguably the two biggest social networks around.
So, users who download the app can broadcast any video content whether it be them feeding their cat, washing the car, the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight or something that we’ve seen quite a bit of in recent weeks, videos of news events.
Beautiful, crisp user interface
There’s quite a bit to love, really.
The app’s UI is definitely brilliant if you fancy bananas; even if its colour scheme is left field, it’s charming and clean. And it looks particularly tasty on smartphones with high pixel densities, a la Samsung Galaxy S6.
Controls and buttons are clear and concise and the element scaling is great. It really doesn’t look like a beta version.
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For all it’s negative reviews on Google Play (it garners two and a half stars), I couldn’t find any intrinsic faults with the beta version, just yet. Watching others’ streams is a bit difficult at times, especially with a sketchy connection but WiFi is probably best used to avoid this.
Self-promotion at its finest
Of course, the streaming backend (at least with the Samsung Galaxy S6 I used to test it on) didn’t splutter when I was broadcasting, suggesting that current LTE standards should be plenty for the app.
Streaming is also a two step system. The app requests that you approve its connection with Twitter, and soon after you’re transforted to the primary home page. Here, there’s an option to tweet a short brief about the pending broadcast and send it to your followers. If one of your followers happen to have Meerkat too, they’ll receive a notifications. It’s all very slick stuff.
Tap “Stream” to send the tweet and begin streaming. With the Samsung Galaxy S6, I wasn’t completely sure what resolution it was pushing, but it was definitely more than 720p. There was no available option to adjust the resolution.
It’s not all good news, though
And that’s really where the shortcomings begin flooding into the yellow submarine.
While self-streaming seems to be flawless, there’s a lot wrong with searching for streams, navigating the currently streaming list and the scheduled streams list. On the one hand, it just doesn’t make sense. Tapping the meerkat’s head jumps between the two lists, but the app didn’t tell me how or why.
Considering that South Africa’s data prices are ridiculously high, Meerkat could be a very easy way to blow 100MB in a few minutes, especially with a sensor that can handle 4K video.
But, and here’s a big but, it’s simply a beta app — there’s bound to be errors aplenty. The iOS is much smoother and more solid, so expect the Android version to grow into a little powerhouse of its own.
More importantly, Meerkat beat Periscope( with all its financial might) to Android — a major move in the mobile streaming war. For now, I think its safe to say that I’ll be keeping Meerkat installed for those “damn, I wish I still had that app on here” moments.
Meerkat really does punch well above its weight. The furry yellow critter has ruffled Twitter’s locks, and now it will look to build a user base on Android. While I don’t usually recommend that users install a beta app, Meerkat for Android seems fairly well put together. It’s beautiful, it’s not too buggy and it will let countless users across the world take part in their own reality TV show.
Version: 0.9.3 (beta)
Developer: Life on Air, Inc.
Platform: Android 4.2 or higher (the iOS version can be downloaded here)
Type: Social/live streaming/broadcasting
Download size: Around 7.6MB