Texts, tweets, Facebook, Google+, email. You can communicate in lots of ways these days, but sometimes you just need to talk. As in over the phone. And not just to one person at a time, but a whole group. And that means conference calls.\n\tIf you\u2019re like me, you\u2019ve been on lots of them. Someone sends you an email with\u00a0a phone number and a PIN or confirmation code. You dial-in and hope that the line isn\u2019t busy. Or the company providing the call service doesn\u2019t put you on hold so long that you miss the beginning. Or the person who organized the call didn\u2019t send you the wrong PIN\u00a0so you\u2019re locked out. Frankly, it\u2019s a pain.\n\tThat\u2019s why I was happy to learn about a new twist on conferencing calling that takes that pain out of setting up and participating in a group calls: CrowdCall. It\u2019s a free app and service that works on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet, and it doesn\u2019t require anybody but the conference organizer to download the app. CrowdCall lets you conference in as many as 20 people for up to an hour. Participants can be reached for free in 40 different countries.\n\tOnce you\u2019ve downloaded and launched the app,\u00a0it prompts\u00a0you to add participants for the call. You press the \u201cplus\u201d button and then select people from your address book. When you\u2019ve got them all lined up, you simply press \u201ccall.\u201d At that point, your phone calls the CrowdCall servers, which call everyone on the list.\n\tWhen\u00a0participants phones' ring, their caller ID\u00a0lets them know it's\u00a0you calling. When they answer, they\u2019re told by a recorded voice that they are invited to join a conference call, and they're asked to \u201cpress one\u201d to join.\u00a0That\u2019s it. Did I mention the service is\u00a0free?\u00a0CrowdCall lets you call friends in other countries without incurring\u00a0foreign call charges because you don\u2019t call your pals in England; CrowdCall does. (Some countries are not free to call,\u00a0but a\u00a0list inside the app lets you know which ones.)\n\tYou can save the names and numbers of people on a call as a group so it's ready to go the next time you want to conference in the same folks.\n\tYou can also use it for\u00a0tasks that\u00a0you\u2019d never have bothered to do via conference call in the past. For example, I can call my two daughters and actually make plans with all of us on the line instead of\u00a0swapping an annoying series of texts (their favorite) or an email chain. If I want to have a quick meeting with a few of my fellow union members, I can call with CrowdCall.\n\tBecause I don\u2019t have good cell phone reception in my home office (thanks AT&T)\u00a0 I can simply select my landline as a participant in the call and answer\u00a0the phone\u00a0when it rings.\n\tWith just a few people on\u00a0a call, quality has been fine. At some point, I\u2019ll try it out with a larger group and if there\u2019s a problem I\u2019ll update this post. When I met with Randy Adams, the CEO of Socialdial, the developer of CrowdCall, I was under the impression that the app allowed you to schedule calls in advance and send text messages to participants as a heads up. I wasn\u2019t able to get either of those functions to work; perhaps they will\u00a0in future\u00a0versions of\u00a0CrowdCall. A competing app, FreeConferenceMobile, reviewed by my CIO colleague James Martin in March has these features, but the lack of them in CrowdCall is\u00a0a relatively small issue, at least for me.\n\tCrowdCall won't make your next conference call any less boring or annoying. It will, however, make it much easier to manage, and that\u2019s a step in the right direction.