Developer: Howbout Ltd.
Size: 60 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Howbout is described as a “social event planner” in its blurb, which is as pithy a summary of its appeal as you’re likely to get. Think of it as operating within a similar wheelhouse to a WhatsApp group message, but with greatly enhanced polling and theming tools.
It’s a small matter to set up quick ‘plans’ (essentially themed hubs), invite the relevant contacts, then add polls, share locations and calendars. You can even host video calls from these plans, or make them secret so that they don’t give away your plans to non-contributors – perfect for those surprise party arrangements.
If everyone shares their calendars, Howbout can also find the best time for a social event that fits in with everyone’s schedules.
However, this is not the Doodle Poll replacement we had been hoping for. Don’t get us wrong, the polls you can create with Howbout are tighter, tidier, and all-round better than the increasingly clunky and ad-saturated Doodle Poll.
But the crucial difference is that you have to invite any participants to sign up to the Howbout app, which in our experience a lot of people simply won’t be willing or mindful enough to do. With social event arrangements, which can often be like herding cats at the best of times, even partial non-participation severely limits such an app’s ongoing usefulness.
That’s always the issue with any new social network or messaging service, of course. It can be as tidy and potentially useful as they come, but if there isn’t a critical mass using them, they’re almost useless. We’d love to see a way for people to answer polls and access event info without downloading the app, although that may simply be wishful thinking.
Howbout at least has the tools to make a go of it, though. The developer promotes engagement through a little light gamification, with stars and perks awarded for inviting new people.
If anything, the app’s interface is perhaps a little busy for our liking. But then, it crams an awful lot of functionality in.
The main tool bar along the bottom lets you check and add dates to shared calendars, keep abreast of event invites, check any chat activity across your various plans, and check on the status of the friends and groups you have within the app.
It’s a trivial thing, but setting up plans and group reminders is greatly enhanced by the simple provision of a prominent GIF finder right alongside the usual photo button. It helps to give your plans – and by extension the app itself – a crucial sense of personality.
We’re not sure whether Howbout will be able to carve a niche for itself in amongst your usual group messages and social media posts, but it certainly makes a case for a more personal and fun type of event planning.