Five useful tips for group communication in iOS 7

Most social media sites will allow you to communicate to a specific individual, an entire group of online friends that happen to use the service, or absolutely everyone in the world at the same time. But what if you want to communicate to a smaller, specific group of individuals just for one special event? These individuals may or may not be part of your online social group of close friends and the event may not last forever. For such occasions, there are several different ways in iOS 7 to create a personal short-term group and keep your communication private within that group.

The following five examples are among the best ways to do so in iOS 7.

Sharing iCloud’s iCalendars

The Calendar app allows you to view multiple calendars from multiple accounts all at once. Creating additional calendars can help keep your events organized. It can also help keep your private events separate from your shared events. To create a new iCloud calendar, tap on the word “Calendar” at the bottom of the screen from within the Calendar app. Edit the list of calendars and tap on “Add Calendar” for your iCloud account. Be sure to use a name that you will want to share with others. When you are done you will see the new calendar in your list of calendars.

Sharing iCloud's iCalendars

Next to each calendar in the list you will see an information button that looks like the letter “i” inside a circle. Tap on the information button to reveal the details of the calendar. This is where you can add contacts that you want to share the calendar with. Once a new contact is added, they will be sent a notification that they will need to accept before they can access the calendar’s events. Also when reviewing the details of the calendar, tapping on each contact you have added to the calendar will show whether or not each contact can edit the calendar. This allows others to add and remove events from the calendar you just created.

Group messaging with iMessages

When sending a message in iMessage, rather than copy and paste the same message multiple times over, simply add an additional contact to the message. You can actually send one text message to several recipients at a time. By tapping on the plus sign in the “To:” of a new message, you can add additional contacts to your iMessage.

Group Messaging with iMessages

Keep in mind that this does not send out three individual messages. Instead you will send out one message to the group. Each recipient in the group will then receive a group message. When they reply to the message, they will be replying to the entire group. You can even send photos and videos to the group. This technique can also work when sharing from within any app that can share via an iMessage. For instance, you can send a link from Safari to a group of contacts and everyone can comment on what they think about the link.

Your location notification

Sometimes you don’t want to bother with sending a message to your friends when you arrive at a particular destination. The Find My Friends app (Free, Universal) can be used to create a group notification that will announce when you leave or arrive at a particular location. From the “Me” tab in the Find My Friends app, tap on Notify. Here you can add multiple contacts that you want to notify when you arrive or leave any location. Choose “When I Leave…” or “When I Arrive…” to select the specific location you want to trigger the notification message.

Your Location Notification

This does require you to turn on the Find My iPhone feature of your iCloud account. You can even use this technique to notify anyone in your contact list where you are at right now. They do not have to have an iCloud account, they do not have to be using an iPhone, and they do not have to be one of your defined friends in the Find My Friends app. Only you do. Such friends will receive en email notification instead.

iCloud Shared Photo Streams

While you can send a single photo or video to multiple recipients using iMessage or Mail, sending multiple photos back and forth over time while you and your group are all at a special event may not be practical. Now with iOS 7 Shared Photo Streams, you can allow everyone in the group share their photos and videos with everyone else with the group.  You no longer need to create multiple shared streams.

iCloud Shared Photo Streams

To set up a new Shared Photo Stream, go to the “Shared” tab of the Photos app. Tap on the plus to add a new stream. Name the stream something meaningful to the groups and add the contacts you want to share with. After the new stream is created, you can access the details of the stream by selecting “People” instead of “Photos”. Here you can add additional people, allow others to post, and even create a public URL where non-members of the shared stream can see the photos you take.

iOS email distribution lists

iOS has never allowed you to create true distribution lists for use in the Mail app. However, new with iOS 7, the Mail app can remember certain contact list patterns when you go to send an email message. As an example, if you continue to send emails to “Bob”, “Nancy” and “Jake”, you will soon see a single selectable option in the list of recipients for the combination of “Bob”, “Nancy” and “Jake”. This saves time from having to enter all three recipients name in, over and over again.

iOS Email Distribution Lists

While there are other ways to trick the mail app and set up a single contact to serve as a distribution list, your best bet is to look for a third-party app to get the job done. One such app is called Simpler ($1.99 Universal) which has recently been updated for iOS 7. While originally designed to help you manage your contacts list, Simpler can also create group lists and send emails to these lists of individuals.