Ping (or “Ping App” as it is listed in the App Store) is a new iOS app from independent developer Mike Spektor. It describes itself as a “simple binary messenger” for iOS, and is available now as a free download.
Ping’s basic concept is that it allows its users to communicate without words. Instead, it makes use of a 3×3 matrix of squares, which users may light up by tapping on them. It’s not possible to highlight squares in a custom arrangement, however; only to gradually increase the number that are lit up to the maximum of 9. Exactly how the users choose to interpret the “pings” they receive from others is entirely up to them — the most logical application of it would be to use it somewhat like a pager/beeper, with the number of lit squares indicating the urgency of the message.
Upon starting Ping for the first time, the app gives users a quick tour and then prompts them for their phone number. This is used to send a confirmation text message with a four-digit activation code that must be entered into the app to proceed. Should the message fail to arrive, the user is able to resend the confirmation message, but not until 60 minutes have elapsed. In the meantime, there is no alternative means of signing into the app — though the 60-minute restriction may be bypassed by quitting the app through iOS’ multitasking bar and restarting it.
Assuming the user is able to sign in, they are then presented with the app’s main interface, which allows them to send a ping to users by searching for their 8-digit Ping ID code or the nickname they set in the app’s settings. Users may also be invited using the iOS address book. Once a user has been added to their in-app friends list, they can be “pinged” at any time, and the various colors of square on their respective icons represent whether the user sent a ping, received one or is looking at a past ping. By swiping over a contact or conversation, additional options become available. When swiping over an entry in the contact list, the user may either delete the contact or view an information pane about them, though the latter option only brings up the same information that is already present on the interface. When swiping over a “conversation,” they may remove the current pings that are lighting up the matrix or delete the “conversation” altogether.
Ping is an interesting experiment in word-free communication — something which has also been recently explored in the video games industry with the PlayStation 3 title Journey — but ultimately it’s simply not very useful. There’s no easy way to find people beyond knowing either their nickname or their eight-digit Ping ID, and there’s no connectivity with social networks. More than that, though, simply being able to light up between one and nine little colored squares just isn’t very useful. There are plenty of other social services available for iOS that allow quick and easy communication, so exactly why someone would choose to use something like this over a service that let them put their thoughts into words is a mystery.
Still, despite its lack of obvious usefulness, the app itself is designed quite well and is easy to use, so those who like the core idea will get some enjoyment out of it. For everyone else, though, this is nothing more than a curiosity that is probably best avoided.
You can follow Ping’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.