It’s a cliche by now, but there’s no question that the launch of the iPhone in 2007 changed the future of mobile devices forever. Even the actual phone portion of the device saw huge improvements: visual voicemail, relatively easy contact management, and quick access to your recent calls. And, err, the dialer has looked just about the same ever since. As has Android’s dialer, which is basically identical to the iPhone’s.
They’re drab, they don’t do a good job consolidating different channels of communication, and they aren’t nearly as smart as they could be.
Enter Poptuit, a new startup that’s looking to reinvent your smartphone’s dialer by turning it into a central hub for all of your social content — and it’s much nicer looking to boot. At this point the Android-only application is in private beta, but the first 100 readers to go here and enter the code ‘Crunch’ will get access.
In a word, Poptuit looks slick. The dialer has gotten a nice facelift, and, more important, it’s actually smarter than the one you’re used to. As you call your friends, coworkers, and family, Poptuit will intelligently display their faces in a grid, so your most-called contacts are easily accessible.
And, in a smart twist, Poptuit includes a separate grid for the businesses you call often, even when they aren’t stored in your contacts. CEO Henry M. Vogel explains that many users wind up looking up the same restaurants and services repeatedly using Yelp or Google, but that they don’t save them because they don’t want to clutter their contacts. Poptuit fixes this by remembering them automatically without actually adding them to your address book.
In addition to serving as a dynamic dialer that learns from your habits, Poptuit is also looking to become a communication platform. Each one of your contacts gets their own automatically generated profile page within the Poptuit app, which will look up their Facebook profile photo and will also display any recent messages you’ve had with them over SMS (Android allows apps to access the SMS database with permission).
And, if you’d like to save on those SMS costs, you can encourage your friends to join Poptuit themselves — if both parties are using the service, they can send free messages though Poptuit’s network free of charge, in much the same way they’d send it through IM. I’m not convinced people really want another way to send their messages, but the app plays just fine with SMS so you don’t need to use it if you don’t want to.
I asked Poptuit about data security, which they say they’re taking very seriously — after all, the app is tapping into your SMS and contact databases. The company says that the only content it stores on its servers are the free messages sent between Poptuit users (and not SMS). The service also uploads names and phone numbers from your address book, which it says are secured using asymmetric encryption (I don’t love their setup because while the names you upload are encrypted, the phone numbers aren’t, but most people probably won’t care).
At this point the company’s monetization plans are a bit vague, but they see plenty of opportunities. In particular, they think that the list of frequently called businesses could be powerful — the app could potentially place offers from the businesses you like, or from their competitors, and it’s also looking at letting merchants ‘claim’ their own Poptuit pages. At this point though, the app is ad-free.
Poptuit was developed by Apptera, a company that’s been around for a decade helping large companies manage their phone systems (for example, when you call a call center, their technology can pull up your records and present it on the screen of the customer service representative). The company is also responsible for many of the mobile ads you’ll find on free mobile phone services like Moviephone and AT&T Directory assistance.
One thing to note: at this point the app doesn’t support Google Voice (so it can’t important those texts), but the company says it plans to add this in a future release.