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Meerkat for iOS review: An innovative effort eclipsed by the competition

Meerkat was all anyone could talk about in February and March this year, but when a new app hit the scene with more features, Meerkat's weaknesses became glaringly apparent.

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Jason Parker
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Jason Parker

Senior Editor / Reviews - Software

Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.

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4 min read

Meerkat (free) lets you stream live video to anyone in the world who has the app. It's an innovative step forward in how we share our lives with others and Meerkat was the first to take off with users. Unfortunately, thanks to the release of a more fully-featured competitor from Twitter, called Periscope , there is little reason to choose Meerkat as your live-streaming app of choice.

meerkatpromo.jpg
6.2

Meerkat for iOS

The Good

Meerkat lets you publicly schedule your streams so your followers won't miss them.

The Bad

The app doesn't save recent streams. There is nothing to browse when no live shows are taking place. There's no official version for Android.

The Bottom Line

Meerkat brought live mobile-streaming video into the mainstream, but its lack of features makes it an easy target for its much better competition.

Periscope gives you live streams to browse, has a much more polished interface, and saves recent streams in case you missed them when they were on. But one thing that gives Meerkat an advantage is the ability to schedule streams -- a feature Periscope doesn't have.

So while Meerkat was exciting at first, Periscope's launch illustrated all the things that Meerkat lacks. Without the addition of several features, the chance of Meerkat reclaiming its initial glory is slim.

Meerkat has a very bare bones interface (pictures)

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Shooting live video

When you launch the app, you're greeted with Meerkat's main screen. It's very minimalist, with only a field to type in a title for your video, a schedule button, and a button to start streaming. There's not much more to it, but there is definitely a certain charm to this simplicity. You have the option to start streaming right away with no title, but if you want people to watch, you should think of a title that will get people's interest.

This is how easy it is to use: once you hit the Stream button, your video will be live and if your followers are curious, they will start entering your video session. When they do, you'll get their avatars across the top of your screen, which are great because you'll often recognize if your friends are watching too. As you shoot your video, you'll be able to see your audience comments and respond to questions live. It's important to note (and Meerkat points this out) that all comments are actual tweets being posted to the Twitter feed. In other words, if you say it on Meerkat, you're also saying it on Twitter.

Schedule your show

One of the biggest disappointments with Meerkat is that it doesn't save your show if your audience missed the live link. When a video shoot is over, you can save it to your camera roll, but as far as the app is concerned, your live stream is gone the second you stop shooting.

To somewhat alleviate this shortcoming, Meerkat lets you schedule shows for later by entering a time of day, a title, then touching a schedule button. A notification will then go out to your followers on Twitter that you're going to be shooting at a specific time. So even though nobody will be able to browse earlier shows, the scheduling feature at least gives people some warning that a show is going to start. Frankly, this is the best feature Meerkat has going for it as Periscope doesn't offer scheduling features.

There is a work-around to this, however. A service called KatchKats will post your live stream to YouTube after a brief processing period, as long as you put #katch in the title. It would obviously be better if Meerkat offered ways to save your videos so people could watch them after the fact, but KatchKats is the only solution for now.

Not much else going on

The biggest miss on Meerkat is the lack of ways to discover new videos. If nobody you follow is broadcasting live when you open the app, all you get is the screen for streaming or scheduling streams. There is no other reason to keep the app open.

With Periscope, on the other hand, there's always something to browse, giving it some life when nobody you know is streaming.

Conclusion

Meerkat was the first to take hold of this current live streaming phenomenon and run with it. It was also the only show in town for awhile, so there was a lot of activity and it seemed to be a must-have for everyone interested in live video.

But once Twitter's Periscope launched, everything changed. Suddenly, the ability to browse videos gave us all something we didn't know we wanted. Meerkat's total reliance on Twitter also became a weakness, as people realized any mundane comment on a live show would go out to all their Twitter followers.

Still, Meerkat was the app that got everyone interested in the phenomenon. Hopefully, with some changes in future updates, it can reclaim its position as one of the best apps for live streams. But if it stays as is, Periscope will continue to take over the live-streaming space, with more features and more things to do in the app.

meerkatpromo.jpg
6.2

Meerkat for iOS

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 5Interface 5Performance 8
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