As a home office worker, I make a lot of desktop Zoom calls. As an industry analyst, I also spend a lot of time covering their enterprise facing Zoom Room and Zoom Webinar offerings. However, it occurred to me that I never really examined their mobile app. I’ve certainly used the mobile version for plenty of quick video calls and chats on the go, but I haven’t sat down and looked at its feature set. As the Zoom mobile app is the top ranked app in the meeting space, both on the App Store and Google Play, I thought I should take a closer look. Considering the leading, and often unique, features in Zoom’s other offerings, I realized I there might be some hidden gems in the mobile app. Also, with a massive new update released a few weeks ago, this seemed like a good time to see what I’ve been missing.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that the Zoom mobile app (I tested the iOS version) is as feature rich and user friendly as their other offerings. I was surprised to discover a few unexpected power features. These include (but aren’t limited to) their Apple CarPlay feature, virtual backgrounds, and mobile presenting.
We all hopefully know that shouldn’t be looking at our phones while driving. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be communicating while driving. By default, Zoom goes into “Safe Driving Mode” when you are driving which disables the video and allows you to attend meetings in audio-only mode. As a side note, Zoom recently patched the app to allow users to turn off “Safe Driving Mode”. Obviously, you should only use this if you are a passenger and someone else is driving.
If you do use your iPhone to communicate while driving (and what iPhone owner doesn’t?), Apple CarPlay is a much safer way to do so. The concept is simple. Rather than fiddling with the buttons on your phone, you can control the app via your car’s dashboard panel or Siri voice commands. This really brings Zoom endpoint interoperability to the next level. Imagine this conversation during your next zoom meeting:
“Hi, I am calling in on a PC.”
“Hi, I am calling in on an iPad.”
“Hi, I am calling in on a Polycom Room System.”
“Hi, I am calling in on a Zoom Room Kit.”
“Hi, I am calling in on a Ford Mustang.”
It sounds funny, but Apple CarPlay literally allows you to use your car as a Zoom system. Considering how much time we are stuck in our cars, and how dangerous it can be to fiddle with our phones while driving, this is a well appreciated feature.
One of Zoom’s hottest features is the ability to support virtual backgrounds. Whenever I use Zoom’s virtual backgrounds as part of a meeting or webinar, I always get questions and comments. People really get excited about this feature, and they are always shocked to learn that there is no extra charge for it. Despite having the impact and “sexiness” of a premium feature, virtual backgrounds are simply included with any Zoom account. It is even included in Zoom’s freemium account!
When you think about it, a virtual background would be extremely useful on the mobile app. After all, you could be jumping into a meeting from anywhere, and the background might not always be attractive. Despite this, I never even considered the idea of virtual background on the mobile app because I don’t want to drag around a greenscreen to put up behind me in Starbucks. Zoom has solved this problem with virtual background technology on iOS that works without a greenscreen! Now you can jump into a meeting anywhere, and always have the background you feel best represents your style.
“I can’t show you the file because I am on mobile. But believe me it is amazing!!!” How many times have you heard yourself saying this, and how foolish did you feel every time you did it? Why do we just accept the fact that if you attend a meeting on your mobile device, you aren’t really a full contributor to the meeting? It shouldn’t matter whether I attend a Zoom meeting using the big computer on my desk at the office, or the little computer in my hand at Starbucks. If I am in the meeting, I want to be able to work on my files with my team.
We all love the fact that we can access our work files on our phones from any location at any time. We also love the fact that we can access our team over video on our phones from any location at any time. Yet we accept this disconnect of not being able to do both at the same time. It may just sound like a checklist item, but if we really want to embrace and empower a truly mobile workforce, screenshare from your mobile device during a video call is essential.
My big takeaway from this look at Zoom mobile is to never underestimate the Zoom dev team. Let’s face it, many mobile offerings are simply a port of the desktop app, optimized for a smaller screen. This is not the case for Zoom. Their mobile app is not just a mirror of their desktop solution. Zoom mobile follows a separate design/feature path which takes the needs of mobile users into account. I use Zoom mobile differently than I use Zoom desktop. The Zoom team is smart enough to understand this and to accommodate it. With some solutions, the mobile app is an afterthought. With Zoom, it seems that nothing which affects the user experience is ever treated as an afterthought.