If you're tired of the ever expanding amount of messaging and social networks popping up and you are looking for a central place to manage your messages, then you'll want to check out Snowball.
One inbox for (nearly) all your messages
Snowball's founders have quite a pedigree. Anish Acharya (a former Amazon employee) and ex-Microsoftie Jeson Patel's previous venture involved setting up mobile social games publisher SocialDeck, which the pair then sold to Google in 2010. Patel then went on to set up Google Play Games.
This app has been backed by Google Ventures, so it should have plenty of funding for future development. But it's important to note that Snowball is not trying to be yet another social network, but a central place where you can view (nearly) all your messages at once. As the founders said in a blog post: "We built Snowball to bring these conversations together; one place for all of the messages from all of the social apps you already love. We didn’t want another social app, we wanted a way for all of our existing social apps to work better together."
So, it is with this illustrious background that Acharya and Patel have come up with the concept of Snowball, which pulls messages from the apps everyday into one, central inbox. These include WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Twitter, LINE, Snapchat, and your own Android messaging service. Currently Viber is not supported, neither is Skype or any email client.
Set up is simple: to enable Snowball, you need to allow it notification access on your Android device and that's it; next time you receive a message from one of the apps you will get a notification from Snowball and you'll be able to see it in your centralized inbox.
Instead of getting notifications from all these different apps, you get one notification from Snowball that covers all of the above-mentioned programs. This appears both in your notification bar and as a Facebook Messenger-style chat head in the form of a slightly evil looking snowball character. This chat head can be moved anywhere on your screen by dragging it or removed if you don't like it.
When you click on that notification you are taken to your centralized inbox where you can view all the messages, with a small icon beside each to show which app they came from. To view, reply, or delete a message you are redirected to the original messaging app.
While the apps you have installed are automatically recognized and added by Snowball, you can remove them at any point and chose to receive notifications from the messaging app itself.
Initially the messages show up on your lockscreen but this can also be disabled.
Great concept, execution needs work
While Snowball is a fantastic concept, it's still very hit or miss. Although it's important to note that the app is still in its beta phase so the final release may iron out these issues.
Twitter notifications never seemed to be picked up by Snowball on my device and notifications from other apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger sometimes showed up in Snowball and sometimes didn't. This also meant that the messages never showed up in the Snowball inbox, leading to an incomplete conversations.
Having to drag the Snowball chat head from the side of the screen and then tap on him adds an extra step to accessing your messages, however if you tap on the notification in the status bar you go straight to the inbox. If you want to get rid of the chat head from the side of the screen you can disable that in the menu.
A lot of potential but an uncertain future
The idea behind Snowball is very timely, after all, aren't most people getting a little tired of having to go into different apps (that seem to do almost the same thing) to read messages from friends? And with new social network and messaging apps constantly popping up, this is only likely get worse and more time consuming.
In its current state, Snowball needs some improvements to make sure it catches all the notifications from the apps it supports and stores these messages in the inbox. When this doesn't happen, it gets messy and confusing. The fact it doesn't support Viber is a downside, as it is a very popular messaging app, and I do wonder how easy would be for Snowball to add support for new messaging apps, especially as there is often no way to know if these apps will be around for the long haul.
While Snowball has great potential (especially if it can add the ability to reply to messages directly within the app), only time will tell if an app like this can succeed or if it will follow the many others that enjoyed brief popularity before disappearing into the cloud.