Houseparty: What it is and why you should (or shouldn't) use it

Houseparty Pixel 4 Hero
Houseparty Pixel 4 Hero (Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

With more and more people needing to stay home right now, the ability to have those fun parties on the weekends has sort of been taken away from us. Well, with Houseparty, the fun doesn't have to stop (until it gets too late), as you can party with up to seven of your friends right from your phone.

Have a party without leaving the house

Are you tired of being stuck in the house with nowhere to go and no parties to attend? With Houseparty, you can have a party wherever you are! The app launched in February 2016 and comes from the same developers behind the now-defunct Meerkat app.

In case you don't remember, Meerkat was another app that let you broadcast live video straight from your device. After a little more than a year, the doors to Meerkat were closed as the developers created Houseparty, which supplanted it.

The premise of Houseparty is simple — have a party with your friends, from the confines of your own home. There are in-app games and the ability for you to be a part of different rooms, similar to that of walking from room-to-room at an actual house party.

Who can download and use Houseparty?

Houseparty On Windows

Source: Chrome Web Store (Image credit: Source: Chrome Web Store)

The great thing about Houseparty is the fact that it's available on all platforms. There's no "green bubble vs. blue bubble" problem to worry about, as Houseparty is available on the following platforms:

  • Android
  • iOS
  • macOS
  • Windows (with a Chrome extension)

The only potential hiccup is that Windows users will have to download and use the Chrome extension. We would have liked to see a fully-fledged desktop app similar to macOS, but it just doesn't seem to be in the cards.

Getting started with your Houseparty

Houseparty Find Your Friends Pixel

Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

It's easy to sign up for Houseparty as the app is completely free, and requires just an email address. During the initial process, Houseparty asks for your cell phone number only to verify who you are. This is just another method of two-factor authentication that is prevalent in a lot of apps today.

Instead of other apps like Google Duo which require your cell phone number to get running, Houseparty does not. You'll go through and attach your email address along with creating a unique username. Doing so makes it easy for you to give someone your username instead of giving them your cell number.

Houseparty App Permissions Pixel

Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

After granting Houseparty access to your Camera, Microphone, and Location, you are dropped right into the app. The initial screen shows you any of your contacts, or you can search for a specific person.

Swiping down on the Contacts screen shows what the party members will see; a livestream of your beautiful face. Plus, there are various controls around the edges of the screen for you to take advantage of.

Swiping down on the Contacts screen shows a livestream of your beautiful face.

As for finding other Houseparty members, the app takes a look at your contact list to see if any of your other friends are already using the app. Plus, there is some Facebook integration, so you can link the two accounts and find even more potential Houseparty attendees.

How to find and add contacts to your Houseparty

Houseparty Connect Contacts Pixel

Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

During the initial setup of Houseparty, the app requests access to your Contact list, along with providing the ability to link your Facebook app. These are two ways for you to be able to get started with a few partiers (hopefully) right from the get-go.

Houseparty also makes it easy to find and add more friends to your contact list, even after the initial setup. By tapping the Plus (+) icon in the top right, you can add friends and are provided with a few different options:

  • Add by Name
  • Add from Contacts
  • Add from Facebook
  • Add Nearby
  • Copy Profile Link

Houseparty Connect Facebook Pixel

Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

Remember where we said that Houseparty requested access to your location? That's where the "Nearby" functionality comes in. If someone near you just downloaded Houseparty and wants to get in on the fun, you can invite them by both parties opening the Nearby screen. Just tap on the contact, and continue the fun.

You can share your profile link in any messaging platform.

A unique link is generated within the app, and when you copy the Profile Link, you can paste it in any of your other messaging platforms. As for the Profile Link, this is created so that you can quickly send invites to your friends over more traditional platforms. This makes it easy to get more of your friends into the party.

In-call options

Houseparty Friends List Pixel

Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

So what controls do you have from within your party? There are actually quite a few, although these are more like optional features instead of actual potential limiters. At the bottom of the screen, there are buttons for the following:

  • Toggle Camera On or Off
  • Switch from front to rear camera
  • Lock the Room
  • Toggle Microphone On or Off

Houseparty Quickdraw Game

Source: Houseparty (Image credit: Source: Houseparty)

In the top right-hand corner, below the Add Friends button, there are a set of die. Tapping this opens up some fun party games for you and your party mates to play:

  • Heads Up!
  • Trivia
  • Chips and Guac
  • Quick Draw!

Heads Up! and Quick Draw! are two games that you've likely heard of or played before. These are adaptations of the popular Play Store games that have been integrated directly into the app. So once everyone has joined the party, just pick a game and start playing!

Leave a Facemail

Houseparty Leave Facemail Pixel

Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

Since you aren't going to be in the same place as the other party-goers, sometimes you'll need to send a gentle reminder. Instead of doing the boring ole' thing of sending a text, you can leave a "Facemail" from within the Houseparty app.

This is pretty simple too, as you'll need to swipe left from the "Add contacts" menu, and you'll be taken to the Inbox. After you find the friend(s) that you want to leave a Facemail for, tap their contact info and record. This will record a short video, which will appear in their Inbox the next time that the Houseparty app is opened.

Perhaps another exciting aspect of Facemail is that you can record highlights from a party and share them. This is an easy way to make sure your friends don't miss out on another great party (read as: guilt them to coming next time).

Keep your party private

There have been rumors swirling around Houseparty users that their accounts have been "hacked". The eyebrows started to get raised after folks began seeing random users and strangers joining their "parties", even without being invited. As it turns out, this is not exactly a hack, but instead is a feature of the app, for better or worse.

Source: iMore (Image credit: Source: iMore)

In the event that you want to keep Houseparty rolling, but want to keep your parties to you and your friends, you'll need to create a private room. This can be done from the app by heading into Account > Settings > Private Mode.

Houseparty itself has tweeted stating that all of the user accounts are safe, and have not been compromised in anyway. This is after people have attempted to delete the user account, only to be met with a message saying that the password doesn't match, along with failed logins from other countries.

Source: iMore (Image credit: Source: iMore)

But that hasn't stopped folks from wanting to delete the app altogether from their devices. In order to do so, head into Account > Settings > Privacy > Delete Account. You'll need to confirm your password, and then the account will be deleted.

The plot thickens

After the rumors began swirling around whether Houseparty was hacked, many users were left frustrated, and gave the popular app a black eye. However, Houseparty clapped back maintaining its "innocence" and that none of the credentials were compromised and that the app does not "collect passwords for other sites."

In response to all of the criticism, Houseparty came out swinging by stating this was a smear campaign and promised $1 million to anyone who could provide proof. That still hasn't stopped folks from wanting to get out of the middle of this charade and attempting to delte their accoungs altogether. This is even after a Forbes security expert tweeted that "they're yet to find any notable security issue" with Houseparty.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming days and weeks as people were just expecting to be able to have virtual parties with friends and family. And the good news is that you can continue to do so, provided that you trust that Houseparty is still in the right and isn't just trying to deflect some of the fingerpointing to another direction.

What's the catch?

It's rare to find an app that is not only free but doesn't want to dig too deep or ask for too many permissions. That's not an issue with Houseparty, as you can give the app as much or little information that you'd like, other than creating an account.

The only significant limitation that we see with using this is that you can only have eight members in a room at a single time. However, if you have a big group of friends, you can create multiple rooms and then switch between them as you see fit.

And if you want to have a private party, you can start with the built-in Private Mode. This must be toggled on in the Settings panel, which can be accessed by tapping the Gear icon on your Friends list, in the top left-hand corner. The room that is created will be automatically locked so that nobody can see the party taking place. But Houseparty isn't the only way to have a group video chat, as there are plenty of other options to download and tinker with if you want to have a party without leaving the confines of your home.

Andrew Myrick
Senior Editor - Chromebooks, tablets, and wearables

Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.