I was on vacation with a few of my friends, when one of them pulled out their phone and started using the Marco Polo app (iOS, Android) to communicate with her husband and kids back home. The rest of my friends and I were mesmerized! What was this magical app that appeared to be the best method of communication EVER?!?!
When I was in high school pagers were just starting to be a thing. Cell phones hadn’t made it to the mass market yet, and we all had to rely on pagers and landlines to communicate with friends. I was fortunate enough to have my OWN phone line in my house because my Dad worked in the tech industry and needed to dial into work from time to time. With the pagers, we had to come up with elaborate codes to use to tell our friends specific things.
Next came texting. This really didn’t start getting popular until well after I was married. Before the full-featured phones of today, we had to text using T9, which means pressing the number keys several times to get just the right letter. It was a pain.
Texting has now graduated, and there are also several other ways to communicate with each other. There is messaging features on just about every social network, and of course, the regular SMS messages through your phone carrier work as well.
Out of all of those advances in technology, I have now found my favorite method of communication, at least until the next thing comes along. This new favorite is absolutely the Marco Polo app. The app is promoted as a video walkie talkie, but I feel like that description doesn’t do it justice. I never caught on to Snapchat. Maybe I’m just too old for it. It’s complicated to use, and I never understood it. However, the Marco Polo app is exactly the perfect bridge between dynamic messages and simple texts.
Why the Marco Polo app is Awesome
Instagram or Facebook Live videos are great, but they are more for a one-to-many conversation. When I want to broadcast something to everyone I know, I’ll use that platform. When I just need to say something to a few individuals or just one person, I would previously just send a text. With Marco Polo, I can shoot a quick video to an individual or to a close group of friends.
On Your Own Time
Say I’m at the store and I’m trying to pick between two different colors of flooring or paint. I can load up Marco Polo and record a video of exactly what I’m looking at to get opinions. While my friends or family can watch the video live, they don’t have to if they have something going on at that time. They can open the Marco Polo app at any time and playback the video from earlier. In this sense, it acts more like a text message, when I can view and respond on my own time, and doesn’t require immediate interaction.
No Time Limits
The video also allows you to tell elaborate stories or vent about something since there is no time limit to your video, unlike Snapchat. If you need to listen to a Polo again, you can go back and view videos from the past. The videos do not disappear like some other social apps. It is sooo much easier to vent through a video than it is over a text, trust us, we are Moms.
I really love that you need to have someone’s phone number in your address book in order to find them on Marco Polo. It makes it a little more private than some other applications, which is one reason I also love it for my kids. I have a few groups inside Marco Polo that are made up of different groups of friends. My one group of friends is very active on Marco Polo. It reminds me of when your mom would spend all day talking on the phone to her friends. My friends and I chat all throughout the day about our struggles, things that are happening in our lives, and even coordinate babysitting. It has really made us a closer group of friends because we can now interact on a regular basis.
One of my friends dubbed our chat group “the Talking Heads”, and requests to watch the “Talking Heads Show” frequently. What can I say, my friends are incredibly entertaining.
The application has filters so you can use a robot voice or a cartoon face. You can also type or write on the screen, for those days when you are sitting in the orthodontist’s office. It does not have the cutesy filters like Instagram or Snapchat that can turn you into an adorable kitty cat. I’m ok with that though. I don’t need to be a kitty cat when talking to my friends about my kid’s Halloween costume. You are able to use an Emoji as your face instead of what your camera views if you aren’t feeling particularly attractive that day.
The app has the ability to share photos as your Polo. Instead of seeing your friends face or what the camera is seeing, you can talk over a photo you have uploaded from your phone. This feature is perfect when you need to talk about a screenshot from your crazy neighborhood Facebook group.
A brand new feature that hasn’t rolled out to all profiles yet is the ability to share a post-it note type message. You can add links to your message or just type a message without an image behind it. You were already able to write messages over a regular Polo, but this method allows you to copy and paste, so it works a little bit better.
What Needs Improvement
The Marco Polo app has the ability to view the messages in double time. Sometimes I wish there would be a feature to skip to the end of the video. My friends and I can get a bit wordy. It would be nice to tell them, “hey I’m going to vent, you can skip to the end if you need to.” You are able to hit the “x” at the top of the screen but it will remain unread until the next Polo comes in that you actually watch.
I would also love the ability to share GIFs through the app. Sometimes you just need to use a GIF to get your point across, and nothing else will suffice.
Other than those two complaints, I really adore this application. I guess it could add a FEW more fun filters too, but it has changed the way I communicate with my friends and family. So much so, that now when I have to write a text I often find myself thinking… I wish this person was on the Marco Polo app!
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com