New iPhone App Lets You Make Free Conference Calls
CIO.com blogger James A. Martin has long been a fan of FreeConference, a Web-based service for scheduling and managing conference calls. But he says the new, free iPhone app is missing some important features.
Sometimes, what works beautifully on the Web doesn’t translate well to an iPhone application.
Case in point: The new FreeConference Mobile app for iPhone (also compatible with iPod touch and iPad devices) from Global Conference Partners. The free app (current version: 1.3) delivers some primary features of FreeConference, a terrific Web-based conference call system I’ve used for years. But in some key areas, the developers have dropped the call.
First, allow me to praise FreeConference, the Web service. As its name implies, you can schedule and conduct conference calls at no charge for up to 150 participants. The service makes it extremely easy to schedule a call and invite others, who dial a toll number to access teleconferences. Call quality, in my experience, has always been excellent, and attendees generally have had no trouble joining.
Alternatively, you can schedule “premium” conferences for 10 cents per minute per user, which include a toll-free number, free desktop sharing, and free call recording. I’ve used the premium service, too, and found it works as advertised.
Then there’s the new iOS app, designed for smaller touch screens. To its credit, FreeConference Mobile has a simple, clean interface. I love the ability to instantly start a conference call from the home screen by touching the phone icon. The app dials your default conference-call number and automatically enters your default access code. Sweet.
You can also quickly schedule future conference calls and invite participants via email or SMS using your iOS contact database. To join a scheduled conference quickly, just click the phone icon next to it. Or you can simply wait—you get an alert that it’s time to join the conference, and the app automatically plugs you in. All of the above: Also sweet.
Unfortunately, we’re done passing out the sugar now, because the FreeConference Mobile app is missing some basic features.
Need to cancel that upcoming conference? I couldn’t find any way to do that in the iOS app, though its Android counterpart features a big ‘Delete’ button. (The current Android version is 1.3; the app was released in January).
In addition, the conference calls I set up on my iPhone didn’t show up in my list of conferences on the website or in the Android app. Though both apps have a “History” tab, neither the iPhone nor the Android app displayed previous conference calls I’d set up on the Web. And the iPhone app didn’t automatically add my upcoming conference calls to my calendar. On the Android, I had the option to connect my Google calendar with the app, which worked well.
I’ve no doubt FreeConference Mobile will improve with future iterations. And even though the free app is lacking some key features, it’s still worth the download, if only for the ease with which you can set up and dial into conference calls. At a minimum, give the web-based service a try. The price sure is right.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.