September 26th, 2014
At TIP, we have been describing the smartphone end-user needs for better mobile voice tools since our inception. Since we’ve gone mobile over 20 years ago, there has been virtually no innovation to the phone call other than the not-often-used reply-by-text option on most smartphones. At times, we have felt like a very lone voice talking about voiceJ. Every once in a while, we meet a person, company, or reporter that understands exactly what our vision is for the future of this leading mode of communication. In fact, that’s how we ended up meeting Shaquille O’Neal along the way; Shaq got it.
Last week, we attended a superb event in San Francisco named Uplinq, which is Qualcomm’s annual Developers Conference. At Uplinq, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf told us in his opening keynote speech that people now spend an average of 195 minutes/day on their smartphones. This figure has more than doubled in the last three years. CTIA, the leading wireless industry association, recently revealed some stats about mobile communication that blew even our socks off:
- 2013 Annual Voice minutes in the US, 2.6 trillion, a growth from 2.3 trillion in 2012
- 2013 Annual Text messages in the US, 1.9 trillion, a decline from 2.2 trillion in 2012
- 2013 Annual Multimedia (MMS) messages, 96 billion, a growth from 74 billion in 2012 (think TIP Solutions CallSnap!)
We think this growth, combined with the growing needs of end-users trying to efficiently and elegantly manage all these calls, puts TIP Solutions right into the sweet spot of the next wave of smartphone innovation. We are biased, but we believe we are the leading software development company fully focused on consumer mobile voice innovation. We go to every tradeshow, we see most of the patent filings, and we know what we are working on by comparison (i.e., mostly by lack of comparison actuallyJ) is supremely unique, needed, and very good.
This leads us to the point of today’s BLOG, which is to share and comment on the sheer tech genius-ness of an article published in the New York Times over the weekend by Jenna Wortham. I could not have written a more perfect article myself in describing an environment more ready for TIP Solutions’ technology. Jenna describes the evolution whereby smartphone users today need “a new kind of voice interaction that is efficient and intimate, yet not intrusive”; an evolution that people are adjusting their habits and choosing their best platform for certain communications; an evolution that new tools are needed because mobile calls can often be “disruptive and inconvenient”; an evolution where she cites a couple example voice tools but doesn’t quite put her finger on what new tools should exist now to solve the consumer pain points.
How about a HOLD button for incoming calls? How about a button that acknowledges a call you can’t answer with a sort of smart context letting them know that you saw the call, but are
currently busy? How about a fun and visual way to decline a call, but show your friends why you didn’t pick-up. How about a service that informs you of your missed calls, even if your phone is off the cellular network? How about a non-intrusive call screen that doesn’t interrupt what you’re doing, but even lets you put the caller momentarily on HOLD?
If you want to know what excites us, then read this (highlights our own) and think about how spot-on she is in identifying the next wave of communications innovation on your smartphone. “HELLO” world!
The “Telephone Hour” number from the 2009 Broadway revival of “Bye Bye Birdie”: Teenagers now have many more communication options than they did in the 1950s.
SARA KRULWICH / THE NEW YORK TIMES
By JENNA WORTHAM
SEPTEMBER 20, 2014
Just a few years ago, it seemed that the old-fashioned phone call was going out of style. Smartphones were on the rise, and many people were using them for everything except making calls.
Phone calls were still part of my job, but they were absent from my personal life, save for the occasional restaurant reservation or doctor’s appointment. I preferred sending messages by text, instant message or email. It felt much easier and more time-efficient than trying to reach someone by phone.
But a few months ago, something curious started to happen.
My friends started picking up their cellphones for an unusual purpose: They wanted to talk. And I started answering when they called.
For example, one friend who lives in California grew tired of trying to have intimate catch-ups over instant message and email, and now uses those means only to coordinate a time when she can call to chat. Another, who lives not far from me in Brooklyn, finds arranging outings over text message too exasperating, and prefers to quickly call and sort out our plans instead.
As much as I enjoy sending and receiving messages, they can be confusing, particularly when it comes to conveying sarcasm or sincerity. And as much as I love using emoji — those colorful cartoons that can be inserted into text messages to infuse them with warmth and humor, they don’t have all that much nuance. Using them isn’t always a guaranteed way of getting my feelings across.
Many industry experts say I’m not the only person to have a renewed appreciation of the virtues of actually talking on a phone, even on a smartphone.
Chetan Sharma, an independent analyst who follows the wireless industry, noted that cellular voice volume in the United States grew 14 percent in the last year: According to figures from CTIA — the Wireless Association, the number of voice minutes in the United States increased to 2.62 trillion, from 2.3 trillion.
One reason for the uptick, Mr. Sharma said, is that nearly 40 percent of American households are now mobile-only, meaning that they no longer have a landline phone, and rely entirely on their cellphones.
“Those minutes are transferring over to mobile,” he said.
He also suspects that shifts in consumer habits are playing a role, and he notes that Americans now have a much wider array of communication options. Texting by SMS — the technology used for basic cellphone messaging — is being supplemented by messaging applications like Apple’s iMessage and WhatsApp, which is now owned by Facebook. In other words, people are adjusting their habits, choosing the platform and service that best suit their conversation needs at a given moment.
A handful of new voice-centered mobile applications are gaining traction as they try to improve on the old-fashioned phone call. All are aiming to solve a basic problem: For people accustomed to messaging, a phone call often feels disruptive and inconvenient. They may not want to answer a call immediately, but if they don’t, they may be caught in endless, irritating games of phone tag.
The new services aren’t trying to replicate the phone calls of yore. Instead, they are trying to fashion a new kind of voice interaction that is efficient and intimate, yet not intrusive. Many have the advantage of letting the recipient of a message play it and answer it at her leisure.
One service, Voxer, works like a walkie-talkie, letting people relay quick snippets of audio to one another. Another, called ChitChat and developed by Ideo, the design firm, performs a similar function, although messages disappear after they are heard.
One entrepreneur, Alan Braverman, has been developing an app, Sobo, that his company describes as “an audio version of Twitter.” His company says the application “will be satisfying a void in the social media app world by enabling quick, nonperishable sound bites.”
Even the giant technology companies are seizing the trend.
This month, Apple announced that it would include a feature on the next version of its mobile software that will also allow its users to send voice notes that will disappear after they are heard.
Thomas Gayno, one of the founders of Cord, a voice messaging service that recently raised nearly $2 million in seed funding from investors, says his start-up aims to combine the best parts of text-based communication — its brevity and convenience — and apply them to voice interactions.
“Maybe we can combine the ease of asynchronous communication like text and Twitter with the power of voice to create a new way to communicate,” he said. “It is much more adaptive to our always-on lifestyle.”
Mr. Gayno built Cord with his friend Jeff Baxter. The men, who met while working at Google on projects including Glass, the computer eyewear, are also betting that voice interaction will be an increasingly crucial portion of technology products, and are building Cord with an eye on that future. Although they did not share early user numbers, they said Cord was slowly building an audience.
Mr. Gayno pointed to devices like smartwatches, smart household appliances and in-car navigation systems as products that might be easier to control with spoken commands.“The next generation of computers won’t have keyboards,” he said. “Or if they do, they’ll be impossible to use. They will work from a voice interface.”
Of course, companies like Cord still have something of an uphill battle. Some people have no interest in going back to what they consider the dark ages — the era of making phone calls.
“The nontalkers are still out there,” Mr. Baxter said. “Some people say, text has won, voice is over, and they don’t want any of it.”
And I can’t say I want to totally give up texting for talking, either. But I appreciate having the option, and hope to convince more of my friends to get on board.