Airchat homescreen with conversations

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The idea of voice-based social networks isn’t new. Clubhouse boomed during the Covid era and floundered soon after. However, Clubhouse’s moment of fame led to several copycats and even spurred the addition of voice to existing platforms like Twitter.

On the face of it, Airchat (Play Store) is yet another take on the old formula. So, why has it gotten so much attention recently?

Have you tried out Airchat yet?

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What is Airchat?

Airchat posting a new conversation

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

In 2023, Naval Ravikant, the co-founder of AngelList and early-stage investor in companies like Uber and Twitter, introduced the first iteration of Airchat. While I never got around to using it, a quick look around suggests that the original ambition erred towards a hybrid of Clubhouse and Instagram. It bombed. But Airchat is back, and this time, the approach is decidedly different.

Airchat trades text for voice, but its Twitter and Threads inspirations are obvious.

I managed to score an invite to Airchat earlier this week and have spent a fair amount of time on the network. The newly resurrected app still trades text for voice. Yes, you read that right. You cannot input any text, and all user interactions are via voice. Still in beta, the entire vibe is more early days of Twitter than the current hell hole that X has become. Airchat’s fresh inspirations are pretty obvious, too. Launching the app drops you straight into a home page that looks like a cross between Threads and Twitter. From there, things get interesting quickly.

The app will immediately start playing back the first conversation in the feed alongside replies to the chat. It’s almost like overhearing a water cooler chat. The built-in AI is quick to transcribe voice chats and is astonishingly good at it. In fact, you can see it making corrections in real time. Tagging other users works by calling out their handles after you’ve voiced out your message. And no, there is no text input at all. It’s voice or nothing.

A small userbase and a voice-only model make Airchat an intimate network

Airchat fitness community

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

I’ve observed that the voice-first approach adds a certain intimacy to the conversations I’m having on Airchat. It’s a stark change from the relative anonymity of platforms like Twitter, where your virtual and actual identity don’t need any correlation. And I say this as someone who has only now switched to a real-world profile pic on Twitter.

The small user base and voice-based interactions give the app a tight-knit community feel.

The incredibly small and community-like user base also fuels the casual intimacy of conversations on Airchat. It’s hard to gauge the exact number, but based on my experience, the active user base appears to be in the low thousands at best. The app is constantly being updated, and a subreddit-style community feature was launched just the other day. The fitness community, likely to be one of the most popular, currently has just over 1800 users, further signaling how small the user base is on the invite-only app.

However, where Airchat differs from other apps is in the level of engagement. I’ve come across deeply insightful conversations, and adding an element of voice to the mix makes it seem like you’re talking to an actual person instead of a talking head or internet guru.

Of course, there are restrictions. Voice posts have now been limited to 5 minutes, ensuring Airchat doesn’t get misused as a podcasting platform. It probably also helps get people off their virtual soapbox. Elsewhere, the latest update has added video support. I haven’t tried that yet, nor have I seen anyone else give it a whirl.

Is Airchat worth trying out now?

Airchat video post

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

I can safely say that I’ve enjoyed using AirChat quite a bit, but despite that, I have my inhibitions about its future. A voice-based app faces one fundamental issue: privacy. Clubhouse gained steam when everyone was stuck at home and could talk freely. That’s not the case today. Sure, you can turn down the volume on your phone and read up on the latest conversations on the platform. But unlike Twitter, Instagram, or Reddit, you can’t actively participate in discussions without voice. This rules out sneaking in a conversation between meetings or even in a public space where talking aloud might not be acceptable. Late night doomscrolling on Twitter without waking up your partner just isn’t a possibility here.

Much as I’m enjoying my time with Airchat, it’s hard to see it scale and compete against the existing juggernauts.

Moreover, I don’t see how this limitation can be addressed without changing the app’s fundamental ethos. And there’s no way the limitation won’t restrict the audience and scale. That said, I see nothing wrong with creating an app positioned towards a more niche and engaged audience. Airchat probably won’t be the Amazon of social media, but Etsy has a thriving user base, too.

My last four days with Airchat have been interesting, to say the least. While it’s too early to tell if it’s going to give serious competition to Big Social Media just yet, the new incarnation of Airchat might have enough staying power to become its own niche player.

No, an existing member needs to invite you to the platform.

Every user can invite five additional members to Airchat.

No, Airchat does not notify users when you take a screenshot.

No, you cannot view who viewed your Airchat profile.

Airchat can only be accessed via the Android and iOS apps.

It’s hard to gauge who has the most followers on the platform, but the founder, Naval, likely has the maximum followers. At the time of publishing, Naval’s profile reported 12,000 followers.

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