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Thread app: caller ID and social media get married

Thread re-imagines caller id and adds a dash of social media that offers immediate benefits to serious professionals.

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Thread takes caller ID to a whole ‘nother level

While there are many caller ID apps on the market, to be frank, they’re mostly useless (no offense, developers). While technology has advanced dramatically, caller ID is still stuck in 1993, and on smartphones, it’s even worse. You may know what city someone’s calling from, but that is the extent of the predictive power of most apps or smartphones.

Thread is a new app that got the attention of technologists, named a 2013 SXSW Accelerator Finalist this week. The team behind the app agrees with us that caller ID sucks (our words, not theirs) and they set out to do more than just tell you who is calling, but to give you all of the caller’s most recent social network updates to add context to their call.

“Thread is caller ID re-imagined,” they explain. Not only does the app show you an incoming caller’s latest Facebook and Twitter posts, but your most recent text messages and emails with them, and after the call, you can respond to any of the four immediately from the app. Talk about time saving and remaining top of mind.

Thread also offers sorting and filtering from all of your contacts by text, email, Twitter and Facebook, making it the only app of its kind that lets users see what they call “pure content streams” of full text and images from social networks within the app. Thread reminds us that the cherry on top is that the app eliminates the clutter of ads and sponsored posts social network users must endure. Genius.

The company envisions the app as serving “as a homebase for your communications and social network needs” as it pulls all of your information together in one place, adds context, and never forces you to leave the app.

So while your phone may already populate an incoming call with the contact’s picture or Facebook picture, Thread rounds it all out by adding everything you want to know in one spot, taking it more than just one step further.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. JoeLoomer

    March 28, 2013 at 6:46 am

    Sounds like the best thing ever, but the reviews on google play store link suggest it has some work to do with syncing FB and Gmail accounts. Screw it, I’m downloading it anyway, waaaay too cool an idea not to.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

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Tech Gadgets

Consumers spend big on smart speakers, but small through them

(TECH GADGETS) Smart speaker manufacturers expected results from the purchase of goods via audio. The consumers results speak for themselves, people want to see products

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Remember when Amazon came out with their “innovative” new idea – – the Dash button? We reported on it a few years ago.

Well, just in case you need a refresher, Amazon created a physical representation of their digital “buy” button in an effort to make buying items from Amazon easier, especially related to items most frequently purchased (like laundry pods and toilet paper). The goal was to provide customers a way to put a sort of reminder next to their frequently purchased items, and press it when they realize they need to order more.

At first, everyone thought this was a great idea… until the price tag and the product’s limitations were shown.

These “buttons” were made of inexpensive plastic and sold for a whopping $4.99 a piece. Not only that, but each button was specific to a certain item, so you couldn’t just buy one Dash – you had to buy one for every item you bought regularly.

That means, depending on what you bought on a regular basis, a single person could have hundreds of these Dash buttons all around their house, making this strategy very unsophisticated and inefficient.

Amazon hasn’t completely abandoned their Dash buttons, as I’m sure they have users here and there, but they definitely have moved on through their Amazon speakers, guided by Alexa, an AI, and they’re not alone. However, for the remainder of this story, given their general popularity and “household name” status, I’ll use Amazon as my prime example.

Now, don’t get me wrong, smart speakers like the Echo are usually satisfactory, at least from a musical perspective, and Alexa does listen pretty well and has some pretty nifty tricks up her preverbal sleeve, but “she” does have her shortcomings.

Let me start by saying that Alexa-based devices, to me, have negatives that far outweigh the positives.

My main reason for opting out of owning an Echo or another smart speaker is the fact that Alexa is always listening. It’s creepy to me, and to many others, but Amazon lives and dies by this strategy when it comes to its Alexa products.

They’re so invested in this feature because they had high hopes that people would use Alexa for far more than obtaining recipes, setting a timer, or reading the news to you (here’s a quick list of what Alexa can currently do, as reported by The Daily Sound). One of these said features is the ability to purchase items through their voice-activated, Alexa-based devices.

Well, I can officially say from a consumer’s perspective that they failed. According to eMarketer, “while some US consumers are warming to the idea of making voice-based purchases via smart speakers, the number of those doing so is smaller than initially estimated.”

But,why? Well, the answer makes perfect sense!

No one wants to buy what they can’t see. If you’ve ever worked in telemarketing or phone-based sales in any way, you know this is true. Having worked in retail in my early professional years, I can say with complete confidence that most consumers prefer to buy what they can see and feel, and if they can’t feel it (ie: eCommerce), they sure as heck want lots of photos and videos showing it off. It’s a fact that people would much prefer a tiny screen with some visuals than something with zero visuals.

In fact, eMarketer goes on to say: “The absence of screens on many smart speaker models is an added aspect of this problem – people often want to see products before a purchase. As a result, some voice buyers are instead opting to make purchases with other voice-controlled devices that have screens, such as smartphones and tablets.”

So what did Amazon really think would happen when they completely stomped on the normal buying process (ie: seeing is believing) by removing all visuals, and instead replacing it with something akin to ordering burgers in a drive through without a menu present? Could this just be a mass experiment, using consumers as guinea pigs while they try to find a new outlet for sales?

It’s possible! After all, Amazon is a marketing machine and if you work in marketing, you know you must perform tests to find out what yielded the best results.

But as both a marketer and a consumer, I digress.

In addition, consumers are also concerned about payment and privacy via a total voice-based transaction. But that doesn’t stop everyone from using the system completely. That said, the privacy concern is real: there’s even a bracelet you can buy to jam Alexa’s microphones.

Of course, there are still reasons to get an Alexa device, but for the time being, people really just don’t trust an audio-based ordering system with no visuals.

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Tech Gadgets

Has Samsung learned from their Galaxy Fold bendy mistakes?

(TECH GADGETS) Samsung’s back with round two of the folding glass phone, but is it worth it? Has Samsung fixed the kinks from the Galaxy Fold with the new Z Flip?

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Talk to any woman and you’ll know that most pants pockets are too small to fit the average cell-phone. Seriously, I can’t even fit my phone into my back pockets. This is a problem that has persisted since the dawn of time (or at least the dawn of smart phones) and an unlikely company is stepping up to present a solution: Samsung.

Sure, Samsung can’t make pockets bigger – though that would be the obvious solution to this problem – but it can make phones smaller. And if that makes you worried you’ll have to sacrifice screen space, never fear! Samsung’s newest model, the Galaxy Z Flip combines the smartphone of the future with the flip phone of the past. In other words: a smart phone with foldable glass.

After all those jokes we made about the inferiority of flip phones, companies are racing back to the general design. In fact, Apple just patented some foldable tech a few days ago.

This isn’t the first time Samsung has tried to release a flip-phone/smartphone hybrid. Last year, they released the Galaxy Fold, which was the size of a normal phone but could unfold to become a tablet. Unfortunately, problems manifested immediately. People reported the phone breaking in under 48 hours, many mistook an integral part of the phone for a screen protector, and others soon had a crease down the middle of the screen.

The release was…underwhelming, to put it nicely.

Now Samsung argues things are different. The Galaxy Z Flip will be about the size of your average smartphone when it’s unfolded, for one, and Samsung assures potential customers that the folding problems from the last device have been fixed. The phone also boasts 5G compatibility and improved cameras that are only made better by the unique angles the flip phone can provide.

Galaxy Z Flip 2

Will this release usher in a new era of flip phones? We’ll have to wait and see, though if it’s anything like their last release…probably not. Even if the device works without a hitch, it still comes with a high price tag – $1,380 to be exact. That’s no small sum to lay down on a phone that is still not guaranteed to last, but hey, that’s what it takes to be a trendsetter.

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Tech Gadgets

New device stops your smart speaker from listening without a safe word

(TECH GADGETS) Don’t like your smart devices spying on you? There might just be a solution. Paranoid is a device that stands between you and companies listening to you.

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Okay, I’m the first to admit I do not trust smart home devices. Between the threat of corporations, hackers and the government all potentially tapping into private information, there’s a lot to be worried about. There’s something disquieting about random Amazon employees listening to my conversations, y’know?

That said…I still sometimes wish for voice activated devices. What can I say, they’re convenient. It would be nice to command my speaker to change the song when my hands are covered in flour or something.

Turns out, I’m not the only one who wishes for a smart speaker that wasn’t always listening in.

Paranoid, which hails from major security company Pleasant Solutions, will serve as a way for you to have your cake and eat it too. Or, in this case, have your smart device and cut down on its ability to spy.

How does it work? Essentially, Paranoid keeps a device from listening in until you say the safe word – “paranoid” – in which case it allows your smart device to listen to your command. For most devices, Paranoid will provide you with a device that easily attaches to your speaker and either jams the speaker or engages the mute button until you want to use the device. More complicated devices can be sent to Paranoid for internal alterations that will provide something similar.

For the moment, Paranoid only services specific models of Amazon and Google speakers, though they hope to expand to tackle any smart speaker on the market.

Of course, if you’re as wary as me, you’re probably aware that this just means Paranoid will be spying on you instead. (My first thought was seriously “out of the frying pan into the fire” when I learned about Paranoid’s technology.) I was relieved to learn, though, that unlike the smart devices, Paranoid doesn’t connect to the cloud. It doesn’t even connect to the internet, which means you don’t have to worry about anyone hacking into the system.

The initial devices will cost $49 USD each. Sure, this could double the price of a cheap smart home speaker, but when the alternative is potentially allowing almost anyone to listen in to your private conversations? I’d say it’s worth it.

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