A new mobile app called Honk aims to make sending messages with friends more interactive in real time. Instead of sending texts in the air and hoping for a response, friends on Honk communicate via messages that are displayed live as you type, with no saved chat history and no send button. The end result is the feeling of being present in a conversation as Honk notifies users as soon as someone leaves a chat. And if you really want to get someone's attention, you can send them a "honk" – a hard-to-miss notification to join your chat.
If it's even more urgent, you can even spam the honk button by pressing it repeatedly. This sends notifications to a friend's phone when they're not in the app, or a flood of brightly colored emoji when the app is open.
🗣️ Need to get someone's attention quickly? Honk them! You will receive a notification to join the chat. If it's super important, you can send the honk button as spam – it's hard to miss. pic.twitter.com/VqcinmeeT2
– Honk (@usehonk) December 22, 2020
After you've set up an account by customizing your profile picture, choosing a username, and adding friends, you can tap a friend's name on your list to send them a message.
When you enter a chat in Honk, you will be presented with two large conversation bubbles. The gray one above shows your friend's messages while you type the blue one. (You can change the colors and theme if you want.)
As you type, the other person will see the text you type in this field in real time – including the breaks and typos that are usually overlooked. This “live typing” experience is reminiscent of older communication technologies such as the early instant messaging app ICQ or the innovative tool for collaboration, Google Wave.
Honk gives you 160 characters to type your thoughts with. These are counted down on the right side of the screen under the conversation bubbles. However, you don't tap the Send button to share the message. The recipient eventually saw the text entered as it was entered. Instead, just tap the double-headed Refresh arrow to clear the screen and enter something new.
There are also buttons to send emoji, take a photo, or access photos from your camera roll to share in chat. The emoji here works more like iMessage's "Send with Echo" screen effect, in that when you use this feature, you're sending not just a single emoji, but multiple large emoji that temporarily fill the screen.
✨ Magic Words lets you assign any emoji to any word or phrase that will automatically trigger effects as you type. This is the best way to personalize your chats and bring them to life. Set up up to 50 unique magic words per chat! pic.twitter.com/2BYUyNrEzz
– Honk (@usehonk) December 23, 2020
Optionally, you can assign emoji to any word or phrase in a single chat using a Magic Words feature that triggers effects as you type (see above). Plus, you can customize chat topics per conversation or turn off notifications from individual users if you don't want to hear as much from them.
None of the conversations are saved and there is no history to look back on. This is similar to messaging apps like Snapchat or Messenger's Vanish mode, for example. (Honk has not clarified his position on safety, however, so proceed carefully before dealing with riskier content.)
And if you want to get someone's attention, you can tap "Honk" to flood them with notifications.
If this all seems a little silly, you probably aren't the target market for the honk messaging experience.
The app is clearly aimed at a young crowd of predominantly young users. If Honk asks for your age during setup, you can actually pick an exact number from the list that appears – unless you are "old". The last option on the age group list is “21+” – the “older folks” age group who can sting a bit for the millennial crowd who often still consider themselves to be online trendsetters.
But Honk apparently wants to get Gene Z interested. It's even being marketed on TikTok, where at the time of writing it has already generated over 140,000 "likes", despite only uploading its first video yesterday. Honk founder Benji Taylor also noted on Twitter that until Wednesday, December 23, 2020, shortly after noon, 550,000 “Honks” had been sent east in the app.
@usehonkwait for that ## fyp ♬ original sound – Honk
According to its website, Honk is the flagship of software company and app publisher Los Feliz Engineering (LFE), backed by investors like Naval Ravikant, Elad Gil, Brian Norgard, David Tisch, Jeff Fagnan, Ryan Hoover, Sarah Downey and Josh Hannah, Sahil Lavingia and others.
“It's exceptionally well designed,” said Product Hunt founder and investor in the Weekend Fund, Ryan Hoover of Honk. “(Honk founder) Benji (Taylor) and his team worked on the little details, from the animations to the sounds. They're also very focused on speed, ”he added.
Taylor declined an in-depth interview when TechCrunch contacted them and found that the team was focused on developing the product for the time being.
"We've been working on Honk for a while. Our goal is to make messaging fun and empower people to communicate in new, creative ways that deepen relationships," Taylor told TechCrunch. "Ultimately, however, we're one small team that builds this up for us and our friends. If others like it, so much the better, ”he said.
We should note that Honk struggled under the load of new logins at startup and under heavy load. Honk users report that the app sometimes states it is offline when not among other errors, for example. Honk has acknowledged the problems on Twitter and stated that he worked to resolve them.
The app can currently be downloaded for free on iOS. It doesn't involve in-app purchases or an obvious business model.