Comm is an obvious competitor to Line, the 60+ million-strong social network from Japan that we explored back in September. Billing itself primarily as a means of making “free calls,” Comm has a number of features in common with NHN’s successful mobile-social network, but on the whole provides a much more streamlined experience. This may make the app somewhat easier to use and navigate, but also means it is somewhat more limited as a service.
Upon starting Comm for the first time, users are prompted to create an account or sign in with Facebook. Existing users from other devices may also sign in using their existing credentials, though they must have set an email address and password on the old handset before this is possible. In order to continue with registration, users must input a four-digit code that is sent to them via SMS. Users are then prompted to fill in their basic information and optionally allow access to their device’s address book, after which they are presented with the app’s main menu.
Initially, the app prompts users to add some friends, which appears to only be possible through a name search function. The app’s documentation promises the possibility of being able to send messages to members of the user’s address book who do not have Comm installed, but despite this functionality being turned on in the settings, there was no apparent or easily-accessible means to do this.
Once a user has been found, it’s possible to view their profile (which includes rather limited information — their name, any photos they have been tagged in and their birthday if they chose to reveal it), add them to the app’s friends list or start a chat with them. There is nothing like Line’s “Brand” functionality to allow users to follow their favorite brands or celebrities — Comm, it seems, is primarily designed as a means of personal communication.
In a chat, users may use text, photos, emoji or stickers to communicate with their chat partner. The emoji used in the app are proprietary rather than those included with iOS, presumably to allow cross-platform communication of these special characters between iOS and Android devices. The stickers, like those seen in Line, are larger graphics to reflect various emotions or simply entertain the other user, though unlike Line there does not appear to be the means to acquire additional sticker packs through in-app purchase. Chats may also be expanded to multi-user threads rather than one-on-one chats if the user desires.
The voice calling facility allows for voice chat with other Comm users. Optionally, users may set their privacy so that they may only receive voice calls from people who are on their friends list — this setting is, however, switched off by default. Users may also switch off the voice call facility entirely if they prefer to use the asynchronous text chat facility. Sound quality for the calls is good and according to DeNA uses a higher bit-rate than a conventional mobile call, but is obviously dependent on the user’s network connection at the time they are trying to make the call.
Taken by itself, Comm is a solid app, assuming you can convince friends to also make use of it. Compared to Line, though, it is somewhat limited — it lacks the latter’s solid mobile-social network atop the basic “chat” experience, and does not, at the time of writing, have any means of monetization. It is also somewhat difficult to find or invite friends using Comm, even with its address book connectivity. As such, many users may well find themselves sticking to more established services for their communication needs — after all, if an existing service with a well-known name (such as, say, Skype or one of the dedicated mobile messaging platforms like WhatsApp or Kik — or indeed Line) does everything the user needs and already has all their friends using it, there’s really very little need for them to switch something like Comm.