POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 2, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 10:32 a.m. HST, Feb 4, 2014
» What it does: It's a real-time video-chat and photo-sharing app for iOS users. Up to 10 friends can chat on the same channel and watch YouTube videos, share pictures and even "write" or comment on their friends' photos.
» Available for: iPhone and iPad
» Cost: Free
» What's hot: Group chats are fun, but for me the real treat was seeing my friends' YouTube videos and Instagram photos. I could comment on them by "writing" or doodling on them with Spin's Chalk Talk. I could even push an applause button if I really loved their work. Which I did — again and again until I was annoying. Using the app definitely helps conquer on-the-road loneliness. It was like hanging out with friends in the same room despite the miles. It's great for parents on business trips, too.
» What's not: When I tried to add or invite friends who were not on Spin, they either didn't get it or weren't able to connect. I needed to alert a friend who was already on Spin to make a "Gathering" happen. I also couldn't connect with my friend in London through the Spin app but later learned that travelers need to download the app in the U.S. before they go abroad. It's not yet available for Android or Windows.
» Worth it?: Yes, as a potential remedy for homesickness. But spend some time practicing with it before you have your first gathering on the road.
--Jen Leo / Los Angeles Times