You Lost Me at “Hello”
One of the great innovations of email, and one of the really weird things about it when you think about the way we usually communicate, is the subject line. Normally, when we talk to each other — in person, on the phone, or even in instant messaging — we just launch into things. The purpose of the dialog is revealed naturally. Sometimes it’s explicitly stated up front, sometimes it emerges during the communication, and sometimes a person might not even be aware of what the talk was really about until it’s over.
The subject line normalizes that process in email. While not everyone likes the tyranny of it, it’s hard to argue the fact that it makes brief communications more efficient, by preparing the parties involved for what’s about to be communicated.
Can this concept work for the good old-fashioned phone call? A new product, SayWhat, augments the phone dialing function (on Android: Download) by letting you send a text blurb or query to the call recipienct before the phone rings. You can select from standard subject lines (“Happy Birthday!”) or pre-generated questions, (“Are you free right now?”) that will pop up as the callee’s phone rings. They can then reply with a quick, canned message, or just accept or reject the incoming call.
Technically it works best when both parties have the app. If not, the person being called gets an SMS message. Of course, you can perform a similar function by just using SMS completely, but SayWhat, with its templates and one-button UI, makes things much faster and easier.
People who want to make phone calls even more useful should also check out Thrutu, which is an app for sending data (maps, photos, links) to people while you’re talking with them.
The act of making a phone call should be kept up to date the same way watching television and driving a car is, and SayWhat is a good step. I agree with SayWhat CEO Noam Wolf that Caller ID was one of the the last truly great carrier-level innovations in the social dance of making or receiving a phone call. I’d also add visual voicemail as a great leap forward. But we can do more.
With open, connected platforms like Android, even the most calcified social processes around the telephone call are thrown up for grabs. What else can we do for users to improve this old signaling and communicating interaction?
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