As they acquire ever-stronger processors and improved multimedia features, mobile phones are supporting a growing number of innovative services. One True Media, whose recently launched Web service permits video sharing with
TiVo users, is experimenting with the transfer of home videos to mobile phones. Pinger, taking a page from old-school voice-messaging systems, has launched a new voice-mail service optimized for cell phone users. And Tiny Pictures invites people with camera phones to share pictures with their friends in real time. All of these mobile services are still in beta form.
One True Media's TiVo
One True Media's service lets you share videos on a TiVo box.One True Media, a video-sharing Web site that provides storage and editing tools, is experimenting with new ways for users to send video from the Web to mobile phones and to TiVo boxes. At the beta stage, both of these services look promising.
The company's basic video-sharing service provides excellent online editing features that let users brush up video and images--for example, by adding effects or music, creating a montage, or generating a thumbnail for use on a blog--before sending them. The free service provides 200MB of online storage space for video or images; for $4 per month, you can increase the storage capacity to 20GB.
The new TiVo service that One True Media is testing is directed at people who have a TiVo box and subscribe to TiVo's associated service. You start by creating a TiVo Channel on your One True Media account, which creates a personal channel on the TiVo service. When you upload a video to your personalized channel, the file automatically goes to that channel on TiVo's back end, where other TiVo users whom you've authorized can download it to their TiVo boxes. Only TiVo users who know your One True Media account code can subscribe to your channel.
Pricing for the TiVo service hasn't yet been determined, according to Brett Elizabeth Gardner, vice president of marketing at One True Media.
In addition to its TiVo experiment, One True Media is toying with a service that allows users to send videos stored on its site to mobile devices. This service supports major carriers in the United States and Canada, and it automatically optimizes video for display on small handheld screens, Gardner says.
Pinger That Message
A Pinger voice message notification looks like this on a Treo.If Pinger has its way, voice messaging may compete with text messaging to become the next rage. Pinger builds on the functionality of text messaging to enable users to exchange rapid-fire mobile-to-mobile voice messages. Though the technology doesn't support real-time exchanges, it encompasses the element of urgency and has some unique advanced features.
To send a voice message, you call the Pinger service, state the name of the recipient--which Pinger's voice-enabled back end is set up to recognize--and leave a message. A text message notifies the recipient of a waiting message that can be retrieved via a call to the Pinger service.
This may sound no different from a traditional voice-mail service, but certain features (including group messaging) put Pinger a step ahead. With the group messaging feature, a user can send voice messages to multiple group members simultaneously. This capability could be useful for sending an urgent message to multiple members of a baseball team, for example, points out Pinger founder Joe Sipher. Calling or text-messaging every member of a group individually might be arduous and time-consuming.
The service, still in beta, is free and works with major mobile service providers in the United States. Being a confirmed penny pincher, I hope the company works with mobile carriers to cut the costs that users may incur when receiving text messages or using airtime for calls to the Pinger service. Users can sign up for the service at Pinger's Web site. The service doesn't work on landline phones, since they don't support text messaging.
On the Radar
Radar sizes images for optimal display on this Danger smart phone.Exchanging pictures with friends while on the go can be a habit-forming pleasure, and Tiny Pictures' Radar service encourages you to get in the swing. Radar users can snap pictures with a camera phone and instantly share them with friends via either the Web or a phone compatible with Wireless Application Protocol (WAP).
"It provides a visual context to conversations," says Tiny Pictures' founder John Poisson. "It's another way to stay in touch."
Radar takes on a life of its own as a mobile photo blogging tool. The service formats each image for the appropriate mobile phone screen size, and users can leave comments regarding each picture. Radar's no-nonsense software interface makes viewing and sharing photographs remarkably easy.
The service is accessible through any WAP-compliant mobile browser. Though the product was conceived as a mobile service, Poisson says, it also permits you to view camera-phone images posted on the service via a traditional Internet browser.
The service is free to users, but Poisson says that the company is working with hardware and mobile providers to develop custom applications.
In February, for example, the company announced a customized, downloadable version of the Radar client for SunCom Wireless mobile phone customers using Danger smart phones. For $3 per month, SunCom customers get instant notification (via a flashing light on the Danger trackball) when they receive new photographs from Radar. The Danger's customized Radar client is optimized for use with Danger's wide-screen display, keyboard, and other input controls.
The company expects to announce partnerships with carriers worldwide in the near future, Poisson says.
Though the service already supports video sharing, Poisson seems more focused on the service's features for sharing still images. As camera phones evolve into video phones, however, video sharing could become more important. Either way, expect big things from this company.