This is a quick and incomplete roundup of four different approaches to what I call the “social phone”. It would have been five in number but Zyb went and acquired Imity not long before being acquired itself by Vodafone. Rather than have a prolonged discussion of what I mean by social phone, let’s just take a look.
SkyDeck: At first blush this looks like a phone bill analysis tool (which indeed it is), which sounds pretty boring. However, we all know that my real social network most likely exists in my phone contacts and call history. Who do I call most often? Who do I text? Whose calls do I ignore? Who do I talk to the most (most minutes) as opposed to call most often? You can figure out quite a bit about your own social graph by analysing you call and text records, and in the way of Web 2.0, you can get significant added value if that data can be shared in a controlled way. SkyDeck adds value by crunching the call and text data for you, and that analysis can be valuable and informative. A great example of some of the value-add that can be brought to your CDRs buried in your operator.
Android: I mention Android here because one of the radical things about Android is the ability to customise everything – including the contact list and the dialler. The possibilities here are very interesting, and we’ve touched on them before, such as: branded phones that come with built-in contacts for (say) 50Cent (“Call him anytime and leave him a message – he’ll text you when he’s playing in your neighbourhood”), location-aware phonebook that can display people in your phonebook who are “nearby”, contact lists that can arrange themselves by “most called”, or “most called when I’m in this city”, and so on. Take a look at the Android Challenge first round for a great initial set of ideas around making the phone social.
Zyb: These guys had a very interesting progression, from backing up your contacts to the cloud, to letting you “connect” to other people in your address book also using Zyb, to adding more and more social aspects to the phone book (shouts, photos, twitter-like microblogging features and so on). In addition, they acquired Imity which used Bluetooth to help bring your contact list alive, and to tell you when other contacts (using Imity) are nearby. A great example of linking some real-world proximity solution with your contacts for value-add. Now part of Vodafone, it’ll be fascinating to see if the Zyb service morphs in to a prime-time offering from Vodafone. Hope so
Jaiku: Lots of people seem to have written Jaiku off, as nothing too much has happened since they were acquired by Google. I haven’t. One of the more fascinating elements of what Jaiku had done was to create a much more social phone book for (admittedly only Nokia) phones than Nokia, including Imity-style features but much, much more. I expect to see some of this functionality re-emerge with gusto and verve whenever Jaiku formally opens for business again. I suspect that when they do, it’ll be timed to coincide with other announcements from Google around Android, Handsets and so on. Just seems logical that this would be the case.
Twelve months from now, my contacts list or phone book in my phone will let me know when people are near, prioritise people I call most often, provide a way to “nudge” or “ping” people to see if they’re up for a call without having to text or barge in on them by calling, and offer options for auto-updating lifestreams online based on who I’m with and where I am (“Sean and Joe were in the pub for three hours. Hmmmm”)
Can’t wait 🙂