YO! is an Android app that aims to take instant messaging off-grid by using the same WiFi network as your friends, family or work colleagues to send messages. The idea here being that there's no risk of these messages, pictures or files, sent over the same WiFi network falling into unwanted hands. It's a safer and more private way of communicating with others nearby. There is also the option to use the Internet and connect with people once they have left the building or are too far away. Finding people nearby on the same WiFi network is simple and connecting with people over the web is as simple as opening up your contacts. So, let's take a closer look and see what YO! is all about.
To get started with YO!, all you need to do is download it from the Play Store. YO! is completely free to use, regardless of whether or not you stick to WiFi or use the web.
There's no need at all to use an email address or anything like that, you can choose to login with a Facebook account if that's easier to connect with people online, but for WiFi use, all you need to do is choose a name, and a profile picture if you want to.
YO! is a pretty simple affair where app design is concerned, which is great as everyone, no matter their level of familiarity with apps and such will be able to use this without any trouble.
In the above shot you'll see that there's a menu listing called "Create Hotspot", this is a neat little feature that creates a WiFi Hotspot on your device, this is what enables groups of people to connect without the need of a central Internet connection or WiFi router, your phone becomes the router. Then, on another device, users just need to connect to this WiFi Hotspot to connect and chat using YO!, like mine below named "AHTDawson":
This is great for connecting a bus load of people on a trip, or a bar full of people looking to chat without using their pricey data plan or slow cellular connections. Chatting with YO! is as simple as it is with any other messaging application, it's familiar and fully-featured:
As you can see, you can share whatever you want with YO!, including images, music as well as files even.
Anything you send in YO! appears inline, and if you're using WiFi things appear really quickly:
You don't have to use the Hotspot feature in order to communicate with people on WiFi, if the two people are connected to the same WiFi network – say the one in a cafe or at work – then you simply head on over to the Discover tab to see who's around:
You can also use the Instant Transfer feature to get people connected with you nice and quickly:
Using YO!'s HyperNet can result in some serious savings, and the app is of course only too happy to let you know how much you have saved by using the app.
Sharing files is a particularly good feature of YO! and it can save you a lot of your data plan and it's a lot quicker as well.
There are so many uses for YO! that I can think of, especially for those in emerging markets with very expensive data coverage and even slower speeds. Imagine being able to connect an entire cafe or restaurant with one phone and one app like this? This is powerful stuff, and it sort of reminds of the Internet Cafes of old, but obviously much more flexible and easier to use. YO! allows for the transfer of files, such as music tracks and images, and it's a hell of lot easier – not to mention tens of times quicker – than setting up a Bluetooth file share or NFC transfer. Messaging with YO! has its uses in the developed world despite super-fast broadband and 4G coverage, for instance a small business or office floor could use YO! to connect employees without the need to use up their data allowance and it would include all those that might have issues getting signal inside the office. There's just so many uses for YO! that it's hard to imagine them all, and that's something very few apps have going for them.
- Speed (4/5) – YO! is super-speedy when used in a WiFi setting and it runs just as quickly as other apps using the Internet.
- Features (5/5) – There are countless instant messaging apps out there, but few of them open things up as much as YO! does. It's super-flexible and there's no need for an Internet connection to use it, it's great for sharing files and it just works.
- Theme (4/5) – The overall look and feel here is good and it's fairly easy to use as a result. YO! doesn't ask too much of the end-user and it has a nice, modern look to it.
- Overall (4.5/5) – This is one of the better messaging apps in the Play Store and it actually has something else to offer besides just trying to be the next WhatsApp.
- Great use of WiFi for connecting groups of people without the need for a slow or spotty cellular connection.
- Can save users lots and lots of money on their phone bill, especially when sharing large files and such.
- Works online just as well as it does offline for connecting long-distance as you would with any other messaging app.
- Great app for those with poor data coverage or expensive plans, especially in emerging markets.
- Interactive tutorial explaining the Hotspot and Instant Transfer modes at the beginning would be nice to see.
- Option to create private groups on the same WiFi network would offer even more flexibility.
YO! is one of the few messaging apps that I've come across that actually offers up something different besides just trying to be the next WhatsApp or whatever. Leveraging the great WiFi connectivity we've had for years on our smartphones, YO! can genuinely be used wherever and whenever you want, and it can go online to keep the conversations going over long, long distances as well. YO! does it all, and it does it all well.