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Facebook Debuts CatchUp For Group Audio Calls

Facebook has a new app called CatchUp, which the company said it hopes will make audio-only phone calls easier, TechCrunch reported.

The unique part of the app, according to TechCrunch, is that it will flag which users are currently available to chat. The app will show a list of users at the top who are ready to chat, while offline users will be listed in a separate category below.

The idea, Facebook said, is to help address one of the main reasons people don’t make phone calls much anymore, in that they never know when someone else is available and don’t want to be intrusive, TechCrunch reported. As voicemail isn’t checked so much anymore, chat apps and messages seem like the more convenient and sensible ways to go about communicating.

Video chatting has been popular as of late, but CatchUp, which offers only audio, could be useful for those who aren’t video-ready or who are multi-tasking and don’t want to only sit in front of a screen.

The app will add more diversity to the ways people are communicating in the era of social distancing. With the pandemic still ongoing, people have turned to video chat apps such as Zoom and Facebook’s own Messenger Rooms in surging numbers for everything from work and school to personal social hangouts.

CatchUp will integrate one’s phone contacts onto the app, and users won’t need to have an active Facebook account in order to use it. TechCrunch reported that the app has a simple interface that could give it more functionality for the elderly or others who have a hard time with digital tech.

The app has been developed by Facebook’s research and development (R&D) unit, the NPE team, which has also developed other apps for the social media company like the meme creator Whale, music app Aux, video app Hobbi and others.

CatchUp is currently in a limited testing phase in the U.S. on iOS and Android devices.

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