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5 Great Free Apps That Pair Well With Friends

Virtual staring contests, long-distance TV watching, newfangled link-sharing, and more.

Just because your smartphone is the most personal of your devices doesn’t mean you should sit on a beanbag chair in your closet, salty tears navigating the gentle slopes of your cheekbones while you play the part of the modern-day hermit.

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No! Connect with your friends, each of you sitting miles apart on your respective beanbag chairs–alone, yet together.

1. Sling Some Links

Back when I was your age, we used to email links to each other like common savages. You kids these days have it easy. Pushbullet (Android, iOS) lets you send links directly to your friends’ phones as you’re enjoying it, gloriously interrupting whatever they’re doing with a notification alerting them that they should be paying attention to whatever you’re doing. There’s even a built-in chat feature so you can discuss poignant listicles as a group.

2. Have a 21st-Century Staring Contest

Lots of people are lovin’ ooVoo for its video-chat product, but the company’s got a fun side project in Flinch (Android, iOS). You and a buddy pair off in a phone-to-phone staring contest, with the app using facial recognition to deduce who smiles first. If matches turn into stalemates, you can use hokey pictures and sounds to try to make your opponent crack. And should you be feeling particularly adventurous, you can go face-to-face with a stranger.

3. You, Me, and TV

You’re on your phone the entire time you’re “watching” TV anyway, right? Might as well be chatting with people “watching” the same show as you. Try Beamly (Android, iOS), which lets you interact with your friends as shows are being broadcast. You can keep the conversations going in show-specific rooms long after airtime, too, ensuring thorough commiseration over the whole Scott-and-Kourtney tragedy that’s deeply affecting all 320 million Americans and countless others around the world right now.

4. Harness Your Inner Nextel

Relieve the glory days of push-to-talk service. Voxer (Android, iOS) turns your phone into a walkie-talkie, letting you and your friends instantly bandy your musings to and fro. You can add text, photos, and location information for some additional color, and if nobody’s home on the other end, you can leave old-school voice messages for them to listen to later.

5. Get Involved

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took the world by storm last year, and Challenged (Android, iOS) hopes to keep the good times going by scouring the web looking for social video challenges. Fire up the app and see what everyone’s up to, whether participating in charitable events, pay-it-forward pleasantries, or just goofing off. You can set up your own public or private challenges, daring your friends to participate.