By Mark Long / Mobile Tech Today. Updated May 22, 2012.
Start-up Sidecar has taken the wraps off a new smartphone app that enables users to share live video and other multimedia content with friends, family members and fellow workers even as they are talking on their phones.
Sidecar makes it possible for users to share photos instantly or deliver the entire contents of an album stored on their phones while chatting with the recipient. Interconnected Sidecar users also will be able to simultaneously view other content, such as an interactive street map.
With Sidecar the goal is to help handset users break out of today's voice-calling silo, said Sidecar CEO Rob Williams. Until now, people who wanted to do more than talk "had to toggle back and forth between voice calls and whatever else they wanted to share with the person they were calling," Williams said Tuesday.
There has been tremendous innovation in smartphones in every area except the basic phone call, Williams observed.
Sidecar tears down these barriers and lets people easily share live video, location, photos, and contacts while they talk," he said. "The result is a more fun, engaging, and expressive conversation."
Connecting Users Worldwide
Among other things, the new Sidecar app enables live videos to be shared with others even as they are being captured by the user's handset camcorder. The service is free whenever both the user and the recipients have Sidecar installed on their phones.
By instantly sharing maps, Sidecar makes it easy for commuters looking for rides to visually inform drivers just where to pick them up and drop them off. Sidecar is already geared up to serve the commuting needs of the communities of passengers and drivers around the world, said the company, which is based in San Francisco and Seattle.
The new Sidecar app also gives users the ability to swiftly pass along and integrate contacts from their phones' address books, as well as send a private text message to another Sidecar user during a voice call.
What's more, individuals can call anyone in the U.S. or Canada for free over a Wi-Fi connection -- even if the recipient of the call is not a Sidecar user. When the call ends, the recipient will receive a text message inviting them to join Sidecar. Additionally, calls to other Sidecar users anywhere in the world are free.
Premium Service Plans
Given that Sidecar's new mobile app and service is free, we asked Williams how his company intends to make money.
"The immediate goal," Williams said, "is to show that the technology works, establish relationships with users and reach a level of scale" that will enable Sidecar to "offer premium services."
"We saw that with Skype -- which needed a very large scale network before it reached maturity," Williams said in a telephone interview.
Williams also envisions Sidecar as a technology that can be enhanced to offer added value to businesses. But as proved to be the case with Skype, he also believes that Sidecar has the potential to revolutionize the entire cellphone industry.
"We think that how we are innovating the calling experience is what we should see on every smartphone that ships in the next five years," Williams said. "In the long run, we see this as what the industry delivers -- with the carriers or independently."
The Sidecar app is available for Apple's iPhone and the iPod Touch, as well as smartphones running Android. It is available for free download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play.