SMS is the new black

A review of mass market mobile apps

Posts Tagged ‘VoIP’

Chat with James Wanless of Talkster

Posted by Admin on January 29, 2009

Just before Christmas I had a chat with James Wanless of Talkster. To give you another chance to see it, I’ve re-posted the article here.

– – –

I  recently wrote about the launch of a service called talki. As it was launching I was lucky enough to be able to chat with James Wanless the COO of Talkster, the company behing talki.

We had a really interesting, although quite short, chat and although I’d not heard of either talki or Talkster before, both sound like they’re worth following.

James, a Brit, living and working mainly in Canada, wants to introduce a service offering cheaper or free international calls and messaging that everyone can use. So the service is designed to be not techy or complicated and doesn’t use Wi-Fi to access VoIP services. In fact in the subject of Wi-Fi, James said:

“I believe that’s a limiting factor in being able to offer a broad service.”

And I agree with him. If regular users need to understand how to access Wi-Fi on their phone before they can use a service then they won’t do it. They have to alter the phone’s settings, find a Wi-Fi location, login … and then use the service. Of course there’s a market of people who are capable / willing to do that, but as James says it’s not a ‘broad’ market.

Now, I’ve not compared the talki Java app and its interface with all of the other services and apps offering mobile VoIP or cheaper calls, but James claims that the talki service was designed to be:
1 – Easier to download
2 – Easier to use
3 – Cheaper
If they’ve got all three of those right then it can’t be bad.

James’s view about all of this is that “technology is a means to an end”. All the user needs to do is dial a local landline number to be able to enter the call – so you can give your mum a number which is a local number for her to call and she can reach you wherever you happen to be. And the ‘replacement’ numbers are issued as permanent numbers, so they can be entered into your contacts.

As well as voice calls talki also offers cheaper texts and MMS. The talki service treats your text message as simply a packet of data and not an SMS, which means that, outside of your bundle, it’s a much cheaper way to send messages. James also believes that talki should and is capable of offering “functionality beyond just lower cost.”

You can see a bit more on his blog here.

Thanks for your time James.

Posted in Ad-funded, Voice | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Conjungo launches websites to help IT buyers

Posted by Admin on January 16, 2009

Conjungo, an independent technology information resource and search engine of technology providers, has launched three new websites to help small business users understand technology. They are called “Go Understand” and they offer advice on CRM, ERP and VoIP. They are designed to provide information on the actual technology, key business benefits as well as implementation considerations. They then help the user select the right providers for their business.

David Cruse, CEO, Conjungo said of the new websites:

“For many small business users, it is difficult to get independent advice and to understand what these technologies mean in business terms. Our new guides provide a useful resource, written in clear English, to help buyers find the best solution without bias towards any particular vendor or service.”

I like this kind of thing and as technology gets more and more complicated for the average user more of these will spring up. Of course, for now it makes more business sense to target businesses – people who know they need to adopt the technology and are willing to seek out and pay for good advice.

However, this kind of thing should eventually move to target consumers. I’m sure there is a business model that means this kind of advice service could be ad-funded, but still offer independent advice; or alternatively a commission could be negotiated, a bit like the IFA (independent financial advisor) model. With talk of a broadband revolution and the government wanting more and more people to be online, we’re going to have educate a lot of people.

Posted in Ad-funded | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Tuesday feature: the low-down on Jajah

Posted by Jon Russell on January 13, 2009

Today’s Tuesday Tech feature is back with a bang, we hope one and all enjoyed the festive period.

Let’s begin by establishing a few facts about communications in the business world…

1. Today’s business world is global

2. Today’s business world doesn’t sleep

3. Being contactable and available 24/7 is essential (and the sum of points 1 & 2)

4. The European Union is continuing to crackdown on rates, yet international calling remains sky-high

5. Despite the emergence of internet communications telephony 2.0 technologies currently lack the critical mass, security and reliability to serve as a primary form of business communication

These points emphasise that mobile continues to play the critical part in ensuring businesses communicate and can be communicated with in this modern environment. Everyone has one, they are simple to use and, the bottom line is, they can be used to communicate effectively.

So are businesses doomed to a future of expensive (but essential) calls overseas? Not according to internet telephony firm Jajah.

The company, which announced 10 million customers in April 2008, was “founded out of frustration with the existing ways of making long distance phone calls” according to Paul Naphtali, Jajah VP Global Marketing. Naphtali took some time out of his schedule to speak to us.

So, how does Jajah enable international calling?

“By embracing the concept of any” says Naphtal, “any person, anywhere, on any network, with any device, any generation or standard, any time.”

Indeed Jajah works as a web-based call centre which, on a basic technical level, hosts two locals calls (one with each calling party) and hooks them up together using a VoIP call (a call hosted over the web). In doing so, the caller pays no more than a local rate for their call as opposed international calling rates which business have become accustomed to.

In practice

Making a call is straight forward once a user has signed up. Most are made directly from the company website where the desired number is inputted, along with the international code, before pressing the call button. A local Jajah server will then call the Jajah user initiating on the number they registered as theirs on set-up.

Once connected the user is put on hold whilst the second server (in the destination contact’s country) is contacted and hooked up to the existing call, from here the call proceeds as a regular one. All in all the ‘hook-up’ process takes no more than 45 seconds and a user can choose to fill the dead-time with adverts which generate additional calling credit at the end of each month.

Calls can be made without the need to access the internet, instead using designated short code numbers which Jajah generates for the contacts within a users address book. These codes can be used to dial the contact directly from a mobile handset, this bypassing the call set-up process and simplifying the process further still. There is also a mobile web site which is proving popular for smartphone users, a segment which Jajah is seeing “increasing usage” of its service within.

Quality

The call quality is carrier-grade but, at times, a small time delay may be present on the call. Generally there is little difference between a Jajah call and an equivalent international call on a fixed/mobile network.

A great testimony to Jajah success is its agreement with Yahoo which has seen the company’s infrastructure used to support all (incoming/outcoming) calls between Yahoo Messenger and mobile/fixed-line phones. The deal saw Yahoo pick up a further 97 million customers and Naphtal admits that, with dozens of other firms using Jajah’s back-end set-up, “you can draw your own assumptions on what the number will be when we next release them”.

Future innovations

Quite understandably Naphtal wouldn’t be drawn into discussing any specific details of upcoming features for Jajah but he does promise they will “go way beyond voice”. A current trend of telephony 2.0 firms has been the establishing of an internet ‘presence’, such telephony button applications and Facebook plug-ins, to link mobile and internet communications.

Naphtal revealed that in 2009 Jajah “will have something that brings this ‘connected life’ together”, so we suspect that a Facebook app or telephony button will be available from Jajah in the not too distant future.

Pricing

Prices are can be found on the Jajah website, and are incredibly competitive from the UK – although the best price saving is made when a Jajah user is calling from a landline, rather than a mobile phone. For example a call to a non-Jajah member in France will be 2p per minute from a landline, but a minimum of 11.9p per minute from a mobile phone.

The service comes into its own when calls are made between registered Jajah users, using the ‘Free Global Calling Program’, although in the UK the call must be made from a user on a landline phone. In other countries, such as Thailand where this reporter is based, calls from mobile devices to fellow Jajah members are free.

Although the service is incredibly popular there have been a few rumblings of discontent from some regular users over the recently introduced programme which allows customers to make 150 minutes of free calls per month so long as they have deposited payment in their account within the last 6 weeks.

Regularly users made the case that the policy will effectively lead to their money being stockpiled in their account. I.e. they do not exceed the allotted free calls per month, and therefore do not spend money in their account yet they must top-up every 6 weeks to remain eligible for the free calls.

This only affects a minority of users however, most users in the UK, where calls originating from a mobile are not free, will appreciate that they can call fellow Jajah users for free from their landline whilst using the credit in their account credit for priced calls.

Summary

We have tested a range of international calling services and Jajah sits happily near the top. The fact that the service is so simple, a broadband connection isn’t even necessary, it works on a range of devices and Jajah offers a monthly allowance of free calls – makes this system quite unique against the rest of the calling market.

The only mild drawbacks are a slight time-lag (which is an ongoing issue for all telephony 2.0 companies) and the cost of calling originating from a mobile in the UK. Jajah’s Naphtal has promised big changes in 2009 and we fully expect these two to be near the top of Jajah’s list of resolutions for the New Year.

You can also keep up with Jajah on Twitter, which is also useful for posing any questions or thoughts to the company’s active Twitter team.

Do you agree with our overview of Jajah? Have you had a great experience from Jajah or one of its competitors? Get in touch with us with your thoughts.

Posted in Tuesday Feature, Voice | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

12 Days of Christmas – Chat with James Wanless of Talkster

Posted by Admin on January 1, 2009

I  recently wrote about the launch of a service called talki. As it was launching I was lucky enough to be able to chat with James Wanless the COO of Talkster, the company behing talki.

We had a really interesting, although quite short, chat and although I’d not heard of either talki or Talkster before, both sound like they’re worth following.

James, a Brit, living and working mainly in Canada, wants to introduce a service offering cheaper or free international calls and messaging that everyone can use. So the service is designed to be not techy or complicated and doesn’t use Wi-Fi to access VoIP services. In fact in the subject of Wi-Fi, James said:

“I believe that’s a limiting factor in being able to offer a broad service.”

And I agree with him. If regular users need to understand how to access Wi-Fi on their phone before they can use a service then they won’t do it. They have to alter the phone’s settings, find a Wi-Fi location, login … and then use the service. Of course there’s a market of people who are capable / willing to do that, but as James says it’s not a ‘broad’ market.

Now, I’ve not compared the talki Java app and its interface with all of the other services and apps offering mobile VoIP or cheaper calls, but James claims that the talki service was designed to be:
1 – Easier to download
2 – Easier to use
3 – Cheaper
If they’ve got all three of those right then it can’t be bad.

James’s view about all of this is that “technology is a means to an end”. All the user needs to do is dial a local landline number to be able to enter the call – so you can give your mum a number which is a local number for her to call and she can reach you wherever you happen to be. And the ‘replacement’ numbers are issued as permanent numbers, so they can be entered into your contacts.

As well as voice calls talki also offers cheaper texts and MMS. The talki service treats your text message as simply a packet of data and not an SMS, which means that, outside of your bundle, it’s a much cheaper way to send messages. James also believes that talki should and is capable of offering “functionality beyond just lower cost.”

You can see a bit more on his blog here.

Thanks for your time James.

Posted in Ad-funded, Voice | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Tuesday Feature: Too good to be Tru?

Posted by Admin on December 16, 2008

A little later in the day than usual (but it means you can enjoy it on Wednesday too), here’s this week’s Tuesday Feature.

– – –

Hot on the heals of our last two Tuesday Features we’ve scored ourselves a mobile social networking hat-trick with a look at mobile messaging firm Truphone.

Background

truphone1Truphone is a mobile VoIP (mVoIP) service which, for the everyday user (who this blog represents), is a service which lets you make free calls and instant messages from your phone.

The company rose to prominence in the mid-2007 when, as a little know start-up (David), it took to court and toppled T-Mobile (Goliath) with allegations of unfair play. The operator was ordered to stop blocks on Truphone extensions and allow calls to its network from Truphone users. A huge dose of high-profile publicity was created in the process.

Fast forward 18 months and Truphone remains a leader of the mVoIP pack, along with long-term rival fring, but how does it shape up now?

The Service

Truphone enables peer-to-peer (P2P)calling and real-time instant messaging (IM) using a range clients like Skype, MSN, Yahoo, GoogleTalk and the company’s own client. Users of relatively unknown SIP (session in protocol) providers like Gizmo and VoIPstunt for low-cost calling can also use these accounts through Truphone.

The service uses a mobile web connection (choosing Wi-Fi where/when available) to route calls and message over the web in the same way that a PC-based client, like MSN, does. Whilst SMS is still very much king of quick communication, IM on mobile is becoming increasingly more popular as use of mobile and mobile internet becomes more like the everyday PC experience.

The service is billed as the ideal accompaniment to an existing phone deal as it does not require a new number, SIM card and change to setup, in the company’s own words:

“It’s a bit like having a separate pay-as-you-go phone on your current mobile – you just top up your credit online and use Truphone when you want to make low-cost internet calls.”

Truphone has also gone a step further and introduced a Tru Saver package which allows calls to USA/Canadian-based mobile phones at less than 1.5 cents per minute. With Skype-out and SIP calling allowing for low-cost calls to mobile, the Tru Saver package is clearly aimed at catering from international calls to mobile devices. This is a particularly attractive package as many countries popular with ex-pats, like Thailand for example, have particularly inadequate landline services. In this case calling a mobile phone is more convenient, better quality experience and now not expensive thanks to initiatives like Tru Saver and Jajah (a service we will endeavour to feature in the future).

Handset Compatibility

Although Truphone lacks the vast handset support of fring, the service is available for iPhone (first and second generation), Nokia N and E-Series devices and BlackBerry smartphones. This selection is deliberate as Truphone’s market is the tech savvy user who naturally prefers high-end feature phone. Hence the service supports such devices to cover its target market. Additionally it is available, for the first time, on a non-cellular device, the (second generation) iPod Touch.

Truphone on the Touch offers the same user experience (calls and IM) as the iPhone client but the device must be connected to Wi-Fi to operate.

This is a particularly neat offering which could attract a new demographic of users to Truphone and the concept of mVoIP itself (see further reading from VoIP expert Andy Abramson here).

The Verdict

We like free calls, we like instant messaging, we use Skype, MSN and GoogleTalk on a regular basis and have a high-end phone. Alongside fring, Truphone is ideal vehicle to maintain our channels of communications whilst on the go.

However we are not the average consumer. Whilst he/she/it is becoming increasingly tech savvy, the average consumer is not ready for mVoIP. He uses his phone to talk, text and snack on (read get) news/entertainment to fill downtime. His user experience caters for all of his communications needs on a mobile device. IM and VoIP are a little extravagant for mainstream users and although they would complement his existing experience, are a little beyond him right now.

Of course those looking to make international calls or use IM from their mobile are perfectly accommodated by Truphone making it a worthy (software) addition to the phone. Call quality is inferior to that of a regular mobile call, but this fact is always disclosed by Truphone and accepted as an ongoing project for improvement.

Truphone is possibly ahead of the curve for the average mobile user, but if you’re the sort to have a high-end device, likes to tinker with new apps, uses IM a lot or wants to make international calls then give Truphone a spin, it’s free after all. And if you have an iPod Touch and regular Wi-Fi access, load up Truphone and get in touch with your thoughts.

Posted in Tuesday Feature | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »