Nobody likes to be alone on Friday nights, but sometimes you are just not sure (or too lazy to find out) if your friends are free to hang out. Good thing there is an app that helps you meet up with available friends, that is, without making you look that desperate.
The Free mobile app just launched on the iOS platform. What it does is basically allow you to broadcast your plans (for the day or for the evening), or your lack thereof, and then launch a group chat that lets you connect with your friends who have time to just hang out.
Free was co-founded by Danny Trinh of Path. In a way, Trinh essentially just took what other services are already offering, such as Foursquare, Facebook's Nearby Friends feature, or Plancast, among many others, and streamline it for easy and convenient use.
The main difference is that the Free mobile app offers more flexibility. Foursquare and Facebook focus on where users are and letting their friends know about it. For instance, a user checks in at a sports bar and broadcasts it to everyone online. But he is not really throwing an explicit invitation to friends to come and join him watch the NBA finals.
As for the Free app, it focuses on what people want to do and who they want to do it with. It is just not about letting others know you are heading to a restaurant right at that moment. It could be about discovering which specific people are available to hang out with and then planning about it or maybe just going with the flow. And it is not like you are throwing a blind “I am free tonight, who wants to hang out with me?” out there -- it uses a more structured approach to connecting with people who are available for the afternoon or for the night.
The Free app also has a rather playful side. The status composer has a cute design, and is simplified -- users can just declare that they are Going Out, Flexible, or Busy. People can add more details like the time and location, and they can even tag friends and discuss what the possible plans are. The composed status are then displayed into the Free app's feed, which one can easily browse through, and then is deleted by morning. If a user suddenly has a change in plans, he can just erase his status.
For those who put Going Out or Flexible statuses, a notification will be sent to their friends. Statuses can be made to be private, i.e. only made to be seen by some of your closest friends. As for those who put Busy, they will not be alerted. Friends who want to respond to statuses can do so via private message. Multiple friends who say they can join are then put into a group chat so that everybody will be updated with the plans. The Free app even sends notifications to those who do not have the app installed in their mobile devices. If a user selects a contact from the phone, the app just sends that contact a text message.
For now, the Free app is only available on iOS. It is not on Android yet, but it is coming to the Apple Watch soon.
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