Honk is a new kind of messaging app for disappearing real-time chats

Honk wants to initiate real-time messaging. Instant messaging? That is a thing of the past for Honk. The iPhone-only app was launched worldwide on Tuesday after months of testing and promises an instant messaging experience. At Honk, your messages will be displayed while the other person is typing, right down to that typo, extra space, or pause to think about something. There is no submit button as it is not required. And you only have 160 characters (roughly the size of a traditional SMS text message) to get your thoughts across. Once you hit the limit, hit an update button to start over. Predictably, Honk has no chat history.

In a way, Honk takes the real-time collaboration of Google Docs and connects it to the concept of message disappearing, developed by Snapchat and since then adopted by almost everyone including Facebook in its suite of apps including WhatsApp and Messenger. Honk is different from most messaging tools but still competes against all of them because of the sheer network effect. And in India, it has the additional hurdle of not being on Android yet, where most of the country’s smartphone users are.

At this point, you’re probably wondering why it’s called “honk”. Well, that’s because the app literally has one Honk Button to grab a person’s attention. The other person will be flooded with notifications when they are outside the app or a series of emoji when they are in the app. Yes, you can press repeatedly Honk Button, just like most Indian drivers on the road – I’ve just realized how grateful I am for all the car horns that the lockdown saved me from. And because Honk is designed to be in the moment, people are notified as soon as someone leaves a chat.

Honk also has a number of customization features. You can change the color of the conversation bubbles (the top one indicates incoming messages, the bottom one you type). You can choose the emoji skin color you prefer and it is reflected throughout Honk. You can also assign specific emoji to a word or phrase. Honk calls it “Magic Words”. Every time you type the word or phrase, the selected emoji will appear next to the word and float up. Emojis have their own section called Reactions, where tapping a preselected emoji produces an effect similar to iMessage’s “Send with Echo” effect. You can also type regular emoji using your keyboard. The only thing Honk seems to be missing right now is a dark mode.

The app is clearly aimed at Gen Z, as age selection options are available at the beginning. You can choose any age between 13-21, but all older people are categorized into 21+. Honk has skyrocketed the App Store charts since its public launch. It is currently number 11 in the US and number 15 in Canada. In India, it ranks 53rd (all ranks are for the social networking category). That surge in interest wasn’t handled very well with Honk, however admit that there were some issues in the early hours of the morning after the rollout, including the fact that users appeared offline when they weren’t.

Honk is available worldwide for free from the App Store.

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