App of the Week: Clubhouse – Drop-in audio chat (Jan 22-28, 2021)

Welcome to another edition of Appy Week with AK, Where I, Arshmeet Kaur, aka AK, scrutinize an app for a full week to observe its merits and flaws and help you decide whether you should keep it or skip it. And what better way to kickstart another week than exploring a unique, extremely intriguing, invite-only social media app, Clubhouse: Drop-in audio chat.

Depending upon your presence on Twitter or interest in tech-news, you might or might not have heard about the Clubhouse iPhone app. So, let me tell you that this app is taking the world by storm with its novel audio-only concept. From celebrities, politicians, influencers to social media gurus, the who’s who of society are testing and appreciating this app.

But is Clubhouse worth all the hype, or is it just a fad? Is it really the new social media platform everyone has been waiting for? Well, there is only one way to find out, read on. 😉 😉

The Clubhouse experience: Was it yeah or meh?

In the March of 2020, Paul Davison and Rohan Seth launched a beta version of their brainchild for a limited audience. Cut to January 2021; the restrictive, invite-only app has managed to clock two million users, including Oprah, Tiffany Haddish, Jared Leto, Drake, Kevin Hart, Wiz Khalifa, Ashton Kutcher, and more.

What’s more?

At the time of writing, the app had 4.9 stars from over 197.7K ratings on the iOS app store. It is becoming as popular as its Disney alternative, The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. (Had to get this out of my system sooner or later!)

These staggering figures got me pretty intrigued and raised several questions in my mind.

How it became so popular, so quickly?
What do you mean by audio-only social media?
And if it is a social media app, then why is it invite-only? So on & so forth.

Well, I did get answers to almost all my queries during this week of testing & reviewing, or shall I say listening to Clubhouse. And here they are neatly laid down for you guys.

What is the Clubhouse social media app?

On paper, it is an interactive audio-based social media app that allows users to form clubs & chat with each other. You can share stories, life experiences, ideas, thoughts, expertise, meet like-minded people around the world, and whatnot.

But in real-life, it challenges the norms of current social media websites like Facebook,  Instagram, and Twitter. It takes off the social pressure of looking good, dressing well, sharing your OOTD, and beyond.

Clubhouse social media app

You can be listening in or participating in a conversation while you are in bed, folding laundry, commuting, or even when you are out for a run. No photos, no meme, no feed; it is only your voice and what you have to add in a conversation that matters.

And while it is not an advanced dating app, you can surely meet special friends on the way. Imagine it as having your personal live podcast, where your audience can interact with you in real-time.

How does Clubhouse work?

Like other social media platforms, Clubhouse uses a special algorithm to highlight and showcase clubs and rooms that interest you the most. It considers your interest (mentioned during the initial login), people you follow, and Twitter profile if enabled.

Tap your interest to find more people in Clubhouse app

You can also check the explore tab to find interesting rooms yourself. On the homepage, or as some call it, the hallway, you will see various rooms. The heading will tell you the club and the current topic of discussion.

You can join a suitable one by clicking it. Quite like a zoom call, the host & a few chosen ones can act as a moderator. The profile icons of current speakers are displayed on the top, the space is called Stage in the app.

Stage space in the Clubhouse app

The one who is speaking will have a grey shadow around their icon. If you have something to add, you can raise your hand. And once the moderator approves, you are added to the speaker section. To add someone to the conversation, tap + and add them.

Simple right! While this more or less explains the whole concept and working of Clubhouse, there are a few things that make the app even more special.

A few basic things you should know about Clubhouse

The app is pretty black & white, quite literally! The interface is minimal, with accents of grey, red, green, and a whole lot of emojis. It also follows the usual social media norms such as followers, following, notifications, profile page, etc.

A few basic things you should know about Clubhouse

Decoding the basic working of the app

All is Live – Every room, every conversation, every participant is live, nothing is stored offline, and you can’t access it later. A part of Clubhouse’s success is this ‘in the moment’ feeling it lends and the FOMO it gives to other non-participants.

No Bugging – Someone can add or invite you into a room or club, only if you are following them, so no random spamming requests. Plus, Clubhouse does not have a private messaging system in place.

If you want to connect with someone, visit their Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Getting to know a speaker – When you like a speaker, you can simply tap their profile icon to know more about them and start following them. There is also a star icon next to the following button, which shows you related profiles. A neat way to find more interesting people on the platform.

Moreover, you can also set a custom notification for a particular speaker; you will be alerted whenever they speak. This way, you will never miss your favorite speaker!

Set custom notification for a particular speaker in clubhouse app

PTR –  Since there is no way of sharing photos directly in the app, users use PTR, i.e., Pull To Refresh, to showcase photos. Basically, you temporarily change your profile picture, and when the page is refreshed, the new image is shown.

This term has become quite common, so much so, the Urban Dictionary has added this acronym into their listing.

Mute/Unmute – There is no way to message someone or send emoji’s; how will you applaud someone? Simple, mute & unmute your mic a few times, and it feels like you are clapping.

Moreover, when I attended a trivia night at Clubhouse, this method was used to inform the moderator that we know the answers. Interesting, right?

Who will you find on the app?

Well, one of my most favorite features of Clubhouse, the Explore Tab, could answer this question with the below screenshots.

Explore Tab feature in clubhouse iOS app

You can easily judge how vast the world of content creation and consumption is on the app. I have already dropped a few celebrity names during the introduction, which seems like just a start.

Whether you are a creator of any sort, an educator, student, music-lover, sleep-deprived, or lonely, the platform has space for everyone. Check these communities, for instance.

Communities in clubhouse iOS app

Is the app safe to use & what about Privacy?

When it comes to any social media, safety and privacy are often at stake. Let’s see how Clubhouse fares on these parameters:

Privacy – Clubhouse clearly establishes its privacy policy. They collect your logs, device data, social media data, location data, etc., for algorithm purposes. Plus, it also temporarily records the audio in a room while the room is live.

If a user reports a Trust and Safety violation while the room is active, the audio is retained for investigation purposes. Otherwise, the audio recording is deleted as soon as the room ends. So, you are somewhat safe in that matter. However, I did try recording a session for experiment purposes and received this message.

Privacy in clubhouse iPhone app

Following which I immediately ended the screen recording. But did not get a warning or indication that the moderator knows or objects to my recording. Although, kudos to Clubhouse because the warning message does show that the developers are serious about privacy.

Then, there is the issue of someone recording conversations from a different device? Well, I have no answer to that; hopefully, the developers could find a solution to circumvent the issue.

Safety – Cyberbullying, harsh/demeaning comments & other similar things are the unfortunate part of every social media. A clear example is a recent backlash Kevin Hart received after his Clubhouse appearance.

The app gives moderators many rights, like muting or kicking someone out of the room to handle malicious players. The creators can also set strict guidelines for their club, and each member has to agree to them before joining it.

The platform also maintains strict community guidelines and promises to ban them, bad actors, without warning.

Why invite-only, and why does it not have an Android app?

Currently, Clubhouse is only available for iPhone users, and the answer behind it is quite simple. The developers are still building & evolving the app, and while the team is expanding, they don’t want to rush into things.

They don’t want to present a half-baked product and promise that both the public and the Android app are in the making.

Note: This is literally from the horse’s mouth; I was able to attend a weekly ‘Welcome to Clubhouse’ room arranged by the developers, Paul and Rohan; and this is what they had to say on the topic.

Why has Clubhouse become so popular?

Three words: Novel concept, FOMO, and controversies. The Clubhouse app has it all! It is a breath of fresh air in many ways, from limiting social pressure to enabling amazing networking.

Why do existing users love it? Let me explain with examples; I casually joined a room called ‘Read your favorite passages/quotes’ and found great book lovers. And when they invited me to share my favorite quote, the space felt natural. I won’t claim I wasn’t hesitant, but a shout out to the moderator, who encouraged everyone to participate.

Why do existing users love clubhouse iPhone app

I am floored by the community spirit I have seen in the past week. There are even support groups build by users, and they wholeheartedly help newbies. Amazingly, they give it all to resolve queries and keep you in the loop.

Why people want an invite? Have you ever read a theory that limited stock items sell more! And since many people can’t access the app but only read rave reviews and news, they are becoming curious. They want to be in on the game and start building a presence/following before their peers could.

And thus, everyone is going gaga about Clubhouse. To put it concisely, the apps’ biggest marketing tool currently is its great word of mouth and the FOMO that the rest of the audience is feeling. So by now, you might have guessed the developer’s underline strategy behind the invite-only, exclusivity persona. Smart, right?

Does AK love the Clubhouse app? Why?

Oh yes! AK has fallen into the trap of Clubhouse. I have to confess that it has become my addiction.  I was 15 minutes late to the office yesterday because developers Paul & Rohan were hosting a room and discussing the app. Also, I can’t wait for the weekend to dive into some interesting conversations.

Reasons why AK love the Clubhouse app

Plus, your eyes can wander while you listen! Minimize the current room to explore other rooms or go to any other app or lock the device to save battery. As and when you want to pitch in, open the room, raise your hand, and speak! Just one thing that I feel is missing and would love to have in the app, a mute button for the current room.

For instance, someone is talking to me, or I want to hear the announcement in the background, I have to remove my earbuds or quit the room and enter it again later. It would be great if I could mute Clubhouse temporarily for a few seconds.

I guess there are some refinements still needed in the app, but I still love it! Psst. I am even planning to start an iGeeksBlog, ‘Everything Apple’ tech room, would you be interested? Share it in the comment section below.

But before that, let’s have a look at the AK Meter.

AK Meter (out of 5)

User interface :                  🌝  🌝  🌝  🌝 🌜

Fun quotient:                     🌝  🌝  🌝  🌝  🌝

Features:                             🌝  🌝  🌝  🌝

Privacy:                               🌝  🌝  🌝  🌝

Audio quality:                    🌝  🌝  🌝  🌝 🌜

Networking:                       🌝  🌝  🌝  🌝 🌜

Communities & rooms:   🌝  🌝  🌝  🌝  🌝

Download

A beginner’s guide to use the Clubhouse app on iPhone.

 What is Appy Week with AK?

As you might have guessed from the above article, I like to dig deep into apps, their features, flaws, and report every minute detail. Appy Week with AK is a unique series where I pick an app every week and dissect it for 7 days! And at the end of the week, I share my experience with you guys to help you decide whether to download the app in your arsenal.

Whether you loved or hated this review, feel free to share your views, comments, and queries with me. I will see you next week with another app; till then, enjoy these previous editions:

A self-professed Geek who loves to explore all things Apple. I thoroughly enjoy discovering new hacks, troubleshooting issues, and finding and reviewing the best products and apps currently available. My expertise also includes curating opinionated and honest editorials. If not this, you might find me surfing the web or listening to audiobooks.


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