The formerly business-only app lets you chat and call with friends
It took a while, especially considering the number of people who are looking for convenient ways of chatting and video conferencing today, but Microsoft has finally created a version of its Business Teams app for personal use. The application, considered in a previous version, is currently available only for mobile devices (iOS and Android). You get 10 GB of file storage for your “team” and 2 GB of personal file storage per person.
The following is a quick introduction on how to use Teams to communicate with friends and family. It is available for iOS and Android; the two applications are extremely similar. The only difference may be in the placement, say, of the “Start new chat” button.
The application offers a variety of ways to communicate: chat, audio and video only. All participants must have the app on their devices, and you also need a Microsoft account (which is relatively simple to sign up for).
- To begin, download the Microsoft Teams app from the iOS App Store or Google Play Store. Sign in with your Microsoft account; if you don’t have one, you can sign up at this point. It’s free.
- If your workplace uses Microsoft Office, you will be asked to either select your organization or to create a personal account. In this case, tap on “Personal.”
- At this point, you’re told that others will be able to find you either using your phone number or your Microsoft email address. This information isn’t made public anywhere, but those who have one or the other (and who hopefully know you) will be able to use them to connect with you on Teams.
- The next screen allows you to sync your contacts with the Team app. It’s not required
You are now on the Teams main screen. Touch the pencil / paper icon to start a conversation. Teams allows you to chat by text, audio or video.
A series of icons at the bottom allows you to check your various activities (like task updates), go to a chat, access your calendar or your OneDrive files. A “More” icon at the end gives you access to your camera (allowing you to take photos, copy business cards, etc.), see a list of your calls and tasks and use a “safe” to store confidential information in an encrypted format section.
Finally, a three-line icon on the side allows you to define your availability and a status message, takes you to your settings and allows you to define notifications, among other features.
To start a chat, tap the “Chat” icon. The page will list people or groups of people you recently chatted with; select one to start a new conversation. To start a session with a new person, touch the pencil / paper icon and you will be asked to enter the person’s name, phone number or email address. (You can allow teams to access their contacts to make things a little easier.) You can also start a group chat with up to 20 people and name the group to use again.
After identifying the person or people you want to chat with, select “Send invitation”. They will receive a notice that you are starting a chat and will be asked to download Teams (assuming they have not yet done so). After they log in, you will receive a notice that they want to chat with you, and you can accept or block.
The Teams chat app, especially for a beta version, works very well and has some interesting features. Two icons to the left of the message bar allow you to insert a photo or an audio clip into the chat. (Note: when creating an audio clip using the app, you must hold down the app’s “record” button until your message is complete.)
Above the chat area, the video and phone icons allow you to turn the chat into a video or audio-only session. There are no real differences between the two; the audio session simply blocks the participants’ cameras.
Currently, the resources available for video chatting are somewhat limited. There is no recording feature (although there is screen sharing), and you cannot change the size or even the placement of the videos. Of course, Microsoft is calling this a preview; additional adjustments may come with time.
Meanwhile, Teams’ ease of use and its integration with Microsoft’s calendar and OneDrive apps can make it very useful for many people.