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LINEAPP: Radio Communication via Smartphone [Review]

By Becki Cross

LINEAPP is an app for team communication. All you need is a mobile device (iOS or Android) to install the application and a WiFi network and you can quickly turn your smartphone into a walkie talkie and make individual or group calls. Here is our review.

LINEAPP: Radio Communication via Smartphone [Review]

LINEAPP: What Is It?

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LINEAPP replaces the need for expensive event radios and works via your mobile or tablet device to enable your team to communicate. WiFi is required for the app to function, wired internet and mobile phone reception is not required. The app allows you to speak to one or many of your colleagues at the same time.

LINEAPP is free for up to three users or a paid option, which unlocks all features, is available with licenses from three days up to one year. This is a product new to market, launched in 2015. The technology has been granted a European-wide patent and has a patent pending for the United States.

The Main Categories of Features Are:

High Quality Communication. Communicate in real time in hi-fi sound, using your iOS or Android device over WiFi. No need to carry a radio and a mobile phone on live event days.

Group Conversations. Easily create groups and communicate with multiple members of your team at the same time. It is also possible to have a permanent connection with up to six people or to listen only.

Remote Operation. It is possible to operate the iOS app with one hand via the button on your headset, rather than operation via the app touch screen.

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Review

Buying or hiring in radios for your event can be a very costly exercise and there are many other downsides, including the radios being bulky and heavy to carry around all day, the potential to mistakenly put down a radio and the possibility of someone changing channels and overhearing a private or sensitive conversation. LINEAPP removes all of these issues by offering a free or competitively priced option for team communications which operates via a device you are already carrying around and which, if using a headset, eliminates the potential for a message to be overheard by the wrong person as you can see exactly who the connection is with. Unlike radios you can talk back whilst the other person is talking, if required, instead of being locked out whilst the other radio user has the talk button pressed.

Set Up

LINEAPP is a self managed system. Currently there are no administration levels and settings, everyone operates using the same device and permissions. To get started everyone needs the app installed. LINEAPP doesn't work on Windows phones, Blackberry or your desktop so check all your team members have an appropriate iOS or Android device. Android devices must also be 4.2 (JellyBean) or above.

To start communicating all team members must be on the same WiFi network. This should be separate to the general network your attendees are connected to as problems will be caused if there are too many users on the same network. Your venue can provide a private network for this purpose or you can work via your own router or mifi device. The WiFi network configuration must be LINEAPP ready, which means that two small changes may need to be made during the set up: clients must be able to communicate over multicast and clients must be able to communicate with each other directly. Everyone that connects to this WiFi network will then automatically be added to the app home screen.

If you request a private WiFi network set up via the venue they may charge you for it, so this needs to be given consideration when comparing the cost of radio hire versus LINEAPP. There is a set up guide which can be passed to the venue so they know what is required. If you are purchasing a router or mifi device yourself consider the range and specifics of the venue or environment you are working to ensure you get full coverage and in case numerous access points are required. I would definitely recommend testing the limits of the system on site in plenty of time before your event, particularly if it covers a large area and works across multiple levels or rooms.

WiFi

The thought of relying on WiFi probably runs a shudder down every event planners spine as many venues are still stuck in the dark ages providing sub standard WiFi connectivity, particularly if you compare overall European standards to American WiFi capability. In this sense the application is ahead of it’s time and needing WiFi capability to catch up. For peace of mind you may want to invest in your own WiFi hardware so that you know you can communicate anywhere, even if you run outdoor events. Unfortunately this is not something LINEAPP can offer support on so it may require a little trial and error or professional advice from the hardware provider. The application can be used in diverse environments, for example ski instructors use LINEAPP to communicate with their students out on the mountain by carrying a router powered by solar panels in his rucksack!

The technology uses very low bandwidth, around 40-50 kilobytes per second, which is a lot less than Skype, for example, and it also operates a lot faster. It doesn’t use any mobile data. The app can cope with 20-25% of packet loss, which is better than most apps and makes it more stable. You can also use other apps or speak on your mobile phone whilst using LINEAPP, it doesn’t limit any other activity, it just runs in the background.

Operation

The app is very easy and intuitive to operate with users adding their name, picture and even their job title if desired to set up their profile. The user tiles shown signify the lines available and there is a simple colour coding system which makes it easy to operate at a glance. In standby mode users will show in blue which indicates that the line is available for communication or they will be greyed out if they are not available or out of range. There is individual volume control to adjust up or down as required for each connections.

To communicate with a single user, you tap and hold the selected line to talk in one direction, which shows in green. You must keep holding the line while you talk, otherwise it will stop the call. The selected user will be able to respond at any moment (full duplex). If you want to talk to two people and don’t have a specific group set up just hold down the two lines you want to talk to.

To create a permanent connection, or duplex, just tap the user twice and this option allows you to communicate with this specific user without any additional interaction. This is shown by a red tile to the other connected user. If you wish to cancel the permanent connection, simply tap the line once again. You can have a permanent connection with up to 6 users and you can still push to talk to others if you wish.

The yellow ‘Listen Only’ function allows users to listen to others without being able to talk themselves. This is a 1-way permanent connection and could be super useful for example for staff outside the main auditorium to hear what is going on and be prepared for when the conference breaks.

Lineapp - in post 1

Remote Operation

As when using walkie-talkies you will probably want to use a headset or earpiece to avoid your radio communications being overheard. LINEAPP can be operated with one finger on iOS devices by using the standard remote control of any headset. Tap the button once to talk to the selected line. Tap it twice repeatedly to move forward from one line to the next. Tap it three times consecutively to switch back to the previous line. Audio will confirm the command given to avoid mistakes. This will also lengthen the battery life of your device as you will not need to wake up the screen to operate, which can be a big drain on power.

A downside of the app is that battery life of a mobile device can already be under pressure during long event days so adding another application may shorten it further, especially if you are not using the headset operation. You will need to ensure that all your team members have charging or power supplies available to ensure they do not lose contact due to their battery dying. This remote operation feature is not currently available for Android, although this is something to expect in the future.

Licensed ‘Unlocked’ Version

If you purchase licenses these are not specific to one person or device, they are transferable. This is perfect if your team members vary between events or even between the set up and the live event. You are given a QR code which allows you to scan the code, swap users and set up the app easily within a couple of minutes.

If you need more than three users you definitely need the unrestricted version of the app, which allows unlimited users. The other main benefits of a license are the ability to create groups and to use the listen only function.

When creating a group you can choose a group name such as catering, security, management, everyone and include lines by dragging and dropping them into the group box. If you wish to talk to all members of the group simultaneously, simply go to the home screen, select the group and communicate by using the push-to-talk option.

Larger organisations may be interested in the option for a custom version of the app, which allows their branding to be used.

Wireless Microphone

Another cool use for LINEAPP is that it can act as a wireless microphone. This works by taking two existing devices running the app to enable one to act as "transmitter" and one as a "receiver". In the transmitting device, you plug in a traditional mic (you will need a XLR to 4pin 3.5mm converter). Then you plug the receiver into your speaker(s) or output device via a 3.5mm jack. Within the app, the transmitter will see the receiver and you can push-to-talk or create a listen only (1 way) connection.

Only the limitations of LINEAPP apply here. So basically that means you can use multiple mics to playthrough to your speaker system, or even better, use multiple speaker systems at once! Any combination between transmitter(s) and receiver(s) is possible. This is a unique feature you haven't seen before. If the speaker system supports input from 2 different channels: XLR (traditional) and 3.5mm (LINEAPP) it will also work alongside traditional mics. Pretty cool!

Features

High Quality Communication

  • Hi-fi sound quality that covers the full human voice spectrum.
  • Real-time communication, without delays.
  • Works with different mobile devices - phones and tablets (Android & iOS)
  • No Internet required
  • Different modes, from Push-To-Talk (PTT) to permanent (Duplex) connection

Group Conversations

  • Unlimited number of users.
  • Create different groups by dragging and dropping the members you wish to add.
  • Simple to create new groups or change the members.
  • It is possible to talk to a group while having another connection to just one person.

Remote Operation

  • The app can be controlled using a headset on iOS devices.
  • One hand operation.
  • Audio confirmation of the command given.

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Who Is It For?

LINEAPP is being used in very diverse settings for indoor and outdoor events of all sizes, sporting competitions, broadcasting and theatre.

Any event planners that currently use radios or would like to communicate more effectively during their events will be interested in the system.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Security. Know exactly who can hear the conversation, no chance of others listening in without your knowledge.
  • Group and individual conversations are possible.
  • A free version is available for up to three users, although the full unlocked version is competitively priced compared to radio hire and logistics and flexible for whatever time period you require a licence.

Cons

  • WiFi. If the WiFi fails so does LINEAPP.
  • Battery life on smart phones is typically less than a radio can last on a single charge. If the battery dies on your mobile device you then have no method of communication.
  • Some set up and testing is required before you can start using the application either via the venue or by providing your own router or mifi device.

Pricing and Plans

LINEAPP is distributed as a free but restricted version, for Apple and Android devices. The premium, unlimited version is an upgrade that can be purchased via the app or Bookingstore on the LINEAPP website.

The free version offers:

  • Maximum of 3 users
  • Push-to-talk function
  • Permanent talk (duplex)
  • 1-hand navigation (iOS only)
  • Automatic connection
  • Automatic permanent

The paid version offers everything from the free version, plus:

  • Unlimited number of users
  • Group function
  • Listen-only function
  • Audio assistant
  • Lockscreen information
  • Disable automatic connection
  • Disable automatic permanent
  • Ad free

A license is available to match your requirements, from 72 hours through to an annual package.

It is also possible to purchase a custom version if you are looking for custom branding, features and integration into other systems.

In Conclusion

LINEAPP is a groundbreaking new technology which streamlines real-time contact and banishes the need for expensive radios. Although many event planners will be wary of a technology that relies on WiFi provision if you can test and get this right before your event you have the opportunity to change and improve your team communication for ever.

 

Disclosure: Reviews are paid for placements. While Event Manager Blog receives a fee to extensively look at the tool and review it in detail, the content of the review is independent and by no means influenced by the company. If you have any questions please use the contact us section.

about the author

Becki Cross
Becki Cross is Managing Director of Events Northern Ltd, a UK event and conference management company established in 2004. Becki set up the business in her early twenties and is particularly passionate about conferences, innovation, entrepreneurship and the legacy of events. Becki is also the Deputy Editor, Community Manager and Contributor to EventMB, her dream job alongside event planning! Follow Becki via @beckitrain.
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