Category: Smartphones

Dual-device videocalling–how about it?

Arcam of Cambridge: Solo Movie system incorporate the latest technology and components from Arcam’s 2016 AVR & Hi-Fi ranges, including the acclaimed Class G amplification, High-End Blu-ray and DVD Replay and full App Controlled music networking / streaming. www.arcam.co.uk. PR by Robert Follis Associates Global - www.robfollis.com

TV setups with large screens and powerful sound systems could also appeal to videocalls where many people wish to participate

A reality that is surfacing with online communications platforms is the fact that most of us prefer to operate these platforms from our smartphones or tablets. Typically we are more comfortable with using these devices as our core hubs for managing personal contacts and conversations.

But there are times when we want to use a large screen such as our main TV for group videocalls. Examples of this may include family conversations with loved ones separated by distance, more so during special occasions like birthdays, Thanksgiving or Christmas. In the business context, there is the desire for two or more of us to engage in video conferences with business partners, suppliers, customers or employees separated by distance. For example, a lawyer and their client could be talking with someone who is selling their business as part of assessing the validity of that potential purchase.

Old lady making a video call at the dinner table press picture courtesy of NBNCo

This is more so when there is that family special moment

But most of the smart-TV and set-top platforms haven’t been engineered to work with the plethora of online-communications platforms that are out there. This is although Skype attempted to get this happening with various smart-TV and set-top platform vendors to allow the smart TV to serve as a Skype-based group videophone once you purchased and connected a Webcam accessory supplied by the manufacturer.

The Skype situation required users to log in to the Skype client on their TV or video device along with buying and installing a camera kit that worked with the TV. This was a case of entering credentials or searching for contacts using a “pick-and-choose” or SMS-style text-entry method which could lead to mistakes. This is compared to where most of us were more comfortable with performing these tasks on our smartphones or tablets because of a touchscreen keyboard or hardware keyboard accessory that made text entry easier.

Apple TV 4th Generation press picture courtesy of Apple

An Apple TV or Chromecast that has the software support for and is connected to a Webcam could simplify this process and place the focus on the smartphone as a control surface for videocalls

The goal I am outlining here is for one to be able to use a smart TV or network-connected video peripheral equipped with a Webcam-type camera device, along with their mobile device, all connected to the same home network and Internet connection to establish or continue a videocall on the TV’s large screen. Such a goal would be to implement the large-screen TV with its built-in speakers or connected sound system along with the Webcam as the videocalling-equivalent of the speakerphone we use for group or “conference” telephone calls when multiple people at either end want to participate in the call.

Set-top devices designed to work with platform mobile devices

A very strong reality that is surfacing for interlinking TVs and mobile devices is the use of a network-enabled video peripheral that provides a video link between the mobile device and video peripheral via one’s home network.

One of these devices is the Apple TV which works with iOS devices thanks to Apple AirPlay while the other is the Google Chromecast that works with Android devices. Both of these video devices can connect to your home network via Wi-Fi wireless or Ethernet with the Apple TV offering the latter option out of the box and the Chromecast offering it as an add-on option. As well, the Chromecast’s functionality is being integrated in to various newer smart TVs and video peripherals under the “Google Cast” or “Chromecast” feature name.

Is there a need for this functionality?

As I have said earlier on, the main usage driver for this functionality would be to place a group videocall where multiple people at the one location want to communicate with another . The classic examples would be for families communicating with distant relatives or businesses placing conference calls that involve multiple decision makers with two or more of these participants at one of the locations.

Social networks and mobile messaging

Most of the mobile messaging platforms offer some form of videocalling capability

In most cases, the “over-the-top” communications platforms like Facetime, Skype, Viber, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are primarily operated using the native mobile client app or the functionality that is part of the mobile platform. This way of managing videocalls appeals to most users because of access to the user’s own contact directory that exists on their device along with the handheld nature of the typical smartphone that appeals to this activity.

It is also worth knowing that some, if not all, of the “over-the-top” communications platforms will offer a “conference call” or “three-way call” function as part of their feature set, extending it to videocalls in at least the business-focused variants. This is where you could have multiple callers from different locations take part in the same conversation. Such setups would typically show the “other” callers as part of a multiple-picture “mosaic” on the screen. Here, the large screen can come in handy with seeing the multiple callers at once.

How is this achieved at the moment?

At the moment, these set-top platforms haven’t been engineered to allow for group videocalling and users would have to invoke screen-mirroring functionality on their mobile devices once they logically associate them with the video endpoint devices. Then they would have to position their mobile device on or in front of the TV so the other side can see your group, something which can be very precarious at times.

How could Apple, Google and co improve on this state of affairs?

Apple TV - Mirroring on - iPad

Should this still be the way to make group videocalls on your Apple TV or Chromecast?

Apple and Google could improve on their AirPlay and Chromecast platforms to provide an andio-video-data feed from the video peripheral to the mobile device using that peripheral. This would work in tandem with a companion Webcam/microphone accessory that can be installed on the TV and connected to the set-top device. For example, Apple could offer a Webcam for the latest generation Apple TV as an “MFi” accessory like they do with the game controllers that enable it to be a games console.

When users associate their mobile devices with a suitably-equipped Apple TV / Chromecast device that supports this enhancement, the communications apps on their phone detect the camera and microphone connected to the video peripheral. The user would then be able to see the camera offered as an alternative camera choice while they are engaged in a videocall, along with the microphone and TV speaker offered as a “speakerphone” option.

What will this entail?

It may require Apple and Google to write mobile endpoint software in to their iOS and Android operating systems to handle the return video feed and the existence of cameras connected to the Apple TV or Chromecast.

Similarly, the tvOS and Chromecast platforms will have to have extra endpoint software written for them while these devices would have to have hardware support for Webcam devices.

At the moment, the latest-generation Apple TV has a USB-C socket on it but this is just serving as a “service” port, but could be opened up as a peripheral port for wired MFi peripherals like a Webcam. Google uses a microUSB port on the Chromecast but this is primarily a power-supply and network-connection port. But they could, again, implement an “expansion module” that provides connectivity to a USB Webcam that is compliant to the USB Video and Audio device classes.

These situations could be answered through a subsequent hardware generation for each of the devices or, if the connections are software-addressable, a major-function firmware update could open up these connections for a camera.

As for application-level support, it may require that the extra camera connected to the Apple TV or Chromecast device be logically enumerated as another camera device by all smartphone apps that exploit the mobile phone’s cameras. The microphone in the camera and the TV’s speakers also would need to be enumerated as another communications-class audio device available to the communications apps. This kind of functionality could be implemented at operating-system level with very little work being asked of from third-party communications software developers.

User privacy can be assured through the same permissions-driven setup implemented in the platform’s app ecosystem that is implemented for access to the mobile device’s own camera and microphone. If users want to see this tightened, it could be feasible to require a separate permissions level for use of external cameras and audio-input devices. But users can simply physically disconnect the Webcam from the video peripheral device when they don’t intend to use it.

An alternative path for app-based connected-TV platforms

There is also an alternative path that smart-TV and set-top vendors could explore. Here, they could implement a universal network-based two-way video protocol that allows the smart TV or set-top device to serve as a large-screen video endpoint for the communications apps.

Similarly, a smart-TV / set-top applications platform could head down the path of using client-side applications that are focused for large-screen communications. This is in a similar vein to what was done for Skype by most smart-TV manufacturers, but the call-setup procedure can be simplified with the user operating their smartphone or tablet as the control surface for managing the call.

This could be invoked through techniques like DIAL (Discovery And Launch) that is used to permit mobile apps to discover large-screen “companion” apps on smart-TV or set-top devices in order to allow users to “throw” what they see on the mobile device to the large screen. As well, the connection to the user’s account could be managed through the use of a session-specific logical token established by the mobile device.

This concept can be taken further through the use of the TV screen as a display surface, typically for communications services’ messaging functions or to show incoming-call notifications.

Conclusion

What we still need to think of is to facilitate “dual-device” videocalling with the popular mobile platforms in order to simplify the task of establishing group videocalls using TVs and other large-screen display devices.

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Samsung implements auto-focus on the Galaxy S8 to make it a selfie smartphone

Article

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge press image courtesy of Samsung

The front camera on the next premium smartphones could end up being equipped with auto-focus technology

The Galaxy S8 may provide better selfies thanks to autofocus implementation | Android Authority

Previous coverage on “selfie” smartphones

What Makes That Smartphone A “Selfie” Smartphone

My Comments

Increasingly smartphone manufacturers are paying attention to the kind of photos a smartphone’s or tablet’s front-facing camera takes. This has been driven by the phenomenon where young people are using these cameras to take “selfies” – pictures of themselves. Even venue owners and event hosts are catering to this trend by providing “selfie photobooths” with the appropriate decorations and props so they can take the funniest-looking selfie.

The way most of the manufacturers have approached this issue includes front-facing cameras with a resolution not dissimilar to the rear-facing camera, use of a wide-angle lens on the front-facing camera or even integrating software logic to remove blemishes from the photos that are taken.

But Samsung has gone further with their front-facing camera by implementing an auto-focus mechanism. Typically, a smartphone would be equipped with auto-focus on the rear-facing camera because this is the one used for general photography but the front-facing camera gets a fair bit of use for both videocalls and selfies. But implementing an auto-focus camera for both of the smartphone’s cameras would be costly and not worth it due to the close proximity of the subjects.

Here, they have implemented an auto-focus cameras on both the front-facing camera and the rear-facing camera for their new Galaxy S8 Android smartphone. This will be seen as a way to differentiate their premium smartphones from the rest of the pack due to the ability to yield that sharp videocall image or selfie.

As the cost of auto-focus cameras for smartphones and tablets that yield acceptable resolution goes downhill, it could become a trend for front-facing cameras on the smartphones, tablets, laptops and similar devices to have this feature for the best Skype videocall or selfie.

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Android Auto now for every car independent of the head unit

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Android main interactive lock screen

Your Android phone could become its own driver-friendly interaction screen for Android Auto

Google

Android Auto Available In Every Car (Blog Post)

My Comments

Android Auto provides a driving-friendly “extension” for your Android-based smartphone on your car’s dashboard. This yields a simplified user interface for audio, navigation, communications and allied apps so you can use them at the wheel.

Increasingly most of the vehicle builders are offering Android Auto compatible infotainment setups for most of the models with a few car-audio manufacturers running with aftermarket head units that have this functionality. But not everyone can benefit from this technology at the moment, perhaps due to a vehicle builder like Toyota not providing support or you maintaining an existing car that doesn’t have this functionality.

Google has answered this problem with version 2 of Android Auto which has the ability to use your Android phone’s screen as an Audroid Auto user interface. This is being rolled out during the current major update cycle for the Android Auto app.

Cassette adaptor in use with a smartphone

An Android phone running Android Auto 2.0 can bring this cassette-adaptor-based setup for classic car stereos to current expectations

Here, you would install your phone on an in-vehicle mounting kit such as the kind that uses a suction cup to anchor to your vehicle’s windscreen. This will allow for your phone to be operated in a stable and road-legal manner while you are driving.

But you can have the sound come through your car’s speakers via a hands-free kit or car stereo that has Bluetooth communications-level or multimedia-level audio compatibility. Or you can use a 3.5mm auxiliary cable or cassette adaptor connected to your smartphone to have its sound through your car stereo. For those of us who have the Bluetooth-based setup, you can set the app to start automatically when your phone connects to the Bluetooth in-car audio device.

This update is infact taking advantage of the Android phablets and smartphones that have the larger display, making it viable for us to use them as a control surface for Android Auto setups. As well, some accessory builders are even taking advantage of this ability by offering Bluetooth-capable mounting kits that provide automatic enablement for Android Auto setups.

I also can see this benefiting the “two-wheeled” community once appropriate mounting kits become available for installation on to bikes and motorcycles. Here, they could use a Bluetooth headset or helmet and benefit from the reduced-interaction abilities that Android Auto offers so their hands are effectively on the handlebars and their eyes on the road all the time.

A good question to raise would be whether Android 2.0 could support a dual-device setup where an Android tablet could serve as a Android Auto display/control device, which could please those of us who want to integrate a 7”-8” tablet to bring Android Auto to our vehicles. Similarly, implementing Android Auto over a MirrorLink setup could open up paths for increased compatibility with infotainment setups.

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Google makes an app that makes animated GIFs out of Apple Live Photos

Articles

Google’s Motion Stills app lets you create the best-looking GIFs on the web | ZDNet

Motion Stills, la nouvelle appli de Google qui transforme vos Live Photos en Gif animés | O1Net.com (French language / Langue Française)

From the horse’s mouth

Google Research

Blog Post

Download from iTunes App Store (iOS)

My Comments

Google Motion Stills "before and after" demonstration output image - press image courtesy of Google Research

Google Motion Stills “before and after” demonstration output image – filmed from a car

Previously, I wrote an article about creating “visual wallpaper” for your electronic display including the creation of “cinemagraphs” which are still photos with a small amount of background animation. This was being made feasible by Apple’s Live Photos feature that came to iOS 9 where you could take a photo with a key still image but having a small amount of motion.

The Live Photos concept was restricted to the Apple platform and the social networks that hosted any Apple Live Photos typically either had to present a still or turn them in to animated GIFs.

Google have answered this problem through an editing and conversion tool called Google Motion Stills which allows you to shoehorn an Apple Live Photo to something that appeals as well as being able to export it as an animated GIF image. The software has integrated video stabilisation logic that comes in to play in keeping a still background but allowing certain parts to move. But it can also “smooth out” panoramas including images shot from a moving vehicle. The Motion Stills software also has the ability to optimise short videos to create video loops or cinemagraphs that appear infinite.

All this functionality is based on Google’s research through the creation of their Google Photos software where they could do things like create animations from photo bursts uploaded to that service. This also includes their effort with stabilising videos uploaded by users to YouTube where a lot of amateur video tends to be very shaky.

The software has to export to animated GIF images because this file format has become the defacto standard for short silent video clips and these GIF files can be used anywhere image files are used. Of course, the animations can be saved as QuickTime movies which would work with most other video-editing software, especially that which is in the Apple world.

…. only if we can get animated GIFs to work with DLNA-capable smart TVs

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Google’s Project Ara modular smartphone is for real

Article

Google Project Ara modular phone - for real

Google Project Ara modular phone – for real

Google’s Project Ara: build your dream phone | The Age

My Comments

There has been some previous coverage about Google’s “Project Ara” modular smartphone, but there was some doubt about this phone being for real.

This mobile phone, like the LG G5 smartphone, can be improved by you buying and adding extra modules that offer additional or better functionality. It is very similar to how the IBM PC evolved where it was feasible to add on extra parts to improve the computer’s functionality.

Google had put the Project Ara concept smartphone on the slow burner and LG advanced their take on a smartphone in the form of the G5 having an improved camera or a hi-fi-grade audio DAC module available as options. Now they have come forth with a firm proof-of-concept to be offered to developers so they can design the modular hardware and to have a system ready for the masses by next year.

Google will push the idea of requiring the modules to be certified by themselves in order to assure quality control and the user experience for installing or upgrading any of these modules will be very similar to replacing a microSD card in your Android smartphone. This is where you tell the operating system that you wish to remove the card before you open up your phone and swap out the card, something I do with my Samsung phone when I want to play different music because I see the microSD cards as though they are cassettes or MiniDiscs that contain music ready to play.

Like with computers, the modular phones will still appeal to those of us who are tech enthusiasts and don’t mind customising our phones to suit our needs. Personally, I would like to see this same modularity looked at for tablets, 2-in-1s and laptops pitched at this same user class who values modularity and customisability.

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Facetime on the big screen with Apple TV

Old lady making a video call at the dinner table press picture courtesy of NBNCo

You can have a FaceTime videocall on the big TV screen with your Apple TV

Those of you who use an iPhone or iPad and have contacts that use these Apple iOS devices will no doubt have engaged in a Facetime videocall at some point. Facetime is Apple’s own over-the-top VoIP / videocall platform that works alongside the their iMessage messaging / presence platform.

But you may want to use the big screen for a Facetime videocall. This may be to have a large group like your family participate in the videocall with a distant relative or friend or you may find that the large screen offers you a way to see your correspondent easily and comfortably. How do you do this?

Apple iPad Pro 9.7 inch press picture courtesy of Apple

The AirPlay network-based video-streaming method brings more utility to the Apple iPad

The same instructions will also apply with people who use any other mobile-messaging platform that uses an iOS client like Skype or Facebook Messenger, especially where the platform offers videocalling or video messaging functionality.

Most likely, you will have purchased an Apple TV set-top box perhaps to use the iTunes video-on-demand services or use its Netflix or other video-service front-ends. This device can also earn its keep in bringing Facetime to the big screen.

This Apple TV device exploits Apple’s Airplay network-based streaming protocol especially for video applications and will work alongside any iPhone or iPad running a version of iOS newer than iOS 5. Both these devices need to be on the same logical network as each other, which is simple for most home and other small networks looked after by one router.

How to have Facetime on the big screen

  1. Start a Facetime session on your iPhone or iPad as you normally would and advise the caller you will be linking to the big screen
  2. Double-click the Home button to bring up the “Fast Application Switcher” and select the iOS Home screen then expose the control panel by “pulling up” from the bottom of the screen
  3. Tap Airplay button and select Apple TV as your AirPlay target device and enable AirPlay mirroring

    Apple TV - Mirroring on - iPad

    Set up iPad for mirroring to Apple TV

  4. Switch back to Facetime by double-clicking on the Home button and selecting the Facetime window which should be the last or second-last window.
  5. Continue your call but see your caller on the big screen and hear them through the TV’s speakers. You may find it easier to place your iPhone or iPad atop or in front of the TV screen for natural conversation.

When I was doing research on this topic, I noticed that commentators were raising the idea that Apple could integrate Facetime in to the Apple TV platform in a similar way to how some smart-TV manufacturers integrated Skype in to their smart-TVs and video peripherals. This would be in the form of supplying a camera kit as an optional accessory or describing one of these kits as part of the MFi peripherals program that Apple runs along with developing a Facetime app for the Apple TV.

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You can have Night Shift and Low Power modes together on your iOS device

Article

Use Night Shift Mode And Low Power Mode On iOS At The Same Time With Siri’s Help | Lifehacker

Video – Click to view

My Comments

Apple introduced in to iOS 9.3 the “Night Shift” mode which tints the iPhone’s or iPad’s display to a yellow colour to allow you to sleep better at night. But you can’t invoke this function on your iOS device if you are running it in Low Power mode to “spin out” your battery runtime or facilitate quick charging.

But the video accompanying the article has shown that there is a way to have both these functions working together. This is through telling Siri, Apple’s voice-driven personal assistant for the iOS platform, to “turn on Night Shift”. Once you tell Siri to do this even though your iOS device is in Low Power mode, it will switch the display to Night Shift mode. You can regret this change by telling Siri to “turn off Night Shift”.

Personally, I would improve on this through a point upgrade by allowing both functions to work together and, perhaps, using Night Shift as a “master command” to optimise your iOS device for evening and night-time use such as reducing sound output or invoking Low Power as a way to run your iOS device on reduced power overnight.

I would see it lead to Apple offering a selection of situation-specific operating modes that affect display, sound and other operational parameters with the ability for users to vary the parameters themselves. Users could at least invoke these modes through an app or the Settings function. But this could be taken further by them asking Siri to invoke these modes or the modes coming in to play under certain conditions like time periods.

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LG to introduce a smartphone that receives DAB digital radio

Articles

LG Stylus 2 DAB+ Android smartphone press photo courtesy of LG

LG Stylus 2 DAB+ Android smartphone

LG’s New Smartphone Can Pick Up Digital Radio | Gizmodo

LG Stylus 2 is the world’s first smartphone to feature DAB | What Hi-Fi

LG’s digital radio smartphone will come to Australia | The Australian

From the horse’s mouth

LG

Press Release

Digital Radio Plus (DAB+ campaign in Australia)

Press Release

My Comments

Most of you may want to listen to radio via your smartphone but the options typically are using one equipped with an FM radio tuner or using an Internet radio app like TuneIn Radio.

The latter option can eat in to your mobile data allowance very quickly and wouldn’t be worth it for those of us who have an entry-level mobile data plan. The former FM-based option denies you access to the AM stations which are still considered a goldmine of information in countries like Australia as well as not assuring you reliable radio reception when you are on the go, which could make it hard to enjoy classical music for example. This is because the headphone cable on personal “Walkman-type” radios including FM-equipped smartphones and Bluetooth adaptors serves as the radio’s FM aerial.

Previously, DAB digital radio in a personal-stereo context was offered in the form of a “Walkman-style” radio with FM and DAB digital radio reception and these radios typically had a small LCD display as their main user interface. They weren’t offered as a “combo” device with a media player of some sort or other functionality and the introduction of DAB-based digital radio was occurring at the same time that Apple effectively took over the personal-audio market with their iPod and iPhone devices.

But LG have raised the bar as smartphone radio is concerned by offering the Stylus 2 smartphone which integrates a DAB+ tuner capable of receiving DAB and DAB+ digital radio stations. These digital-radio standards, especially DAB+, which are being implemented in most of Europe and in Australia offer a highly-robust radio-listening experience. There is also the ability to tune stations by selecting from a list of the stations’ names rather than trying to remember frequencies which also makes the experience very much “part of” the smartphone.

The LG Stylus 2 smartphone will have the expected features of one of today’s Android smartphones and will use a variant of the LG Internet-radio app for station navigation. This phone will be made available in markets where there is an active DAB-based digital radio service like most of Europe, Australia and some of Asia.

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Freeview now aggregates Australian FTA TV Internet streams in a mobile app

Article

TV networks to launch aggregated streaming app | AdNews

Previous Coverage

Broadcast TV via the Internet

My Comments

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet

Tablets and smartphones could end up as the place to watch TV and you don’t need a tuner module

Previously, I covered the issue of regular TV broadcasters running Internet-video streams of their traditional broadcast output. This has been offered as part of a Web-front or native app that the TV network supplies, typically to facilitate access to their catch-up TV service.

This is about not needing to use a USB or broadcast-LAN TV tuner device to watch TV on your smartphone, tablet or laptop. It underscores the goal of having one of these devices take over the role of that small-screen TV you would have in the kitchen to watch “Days Of Our Lives” while you do the ironing.

One of the issues I had raised with this approach was that you had to switch between apps if you wanted to view content on other networks and this didn’t play well with the classic TV channel-surfing experience of being able to switch between the channels using the same “control surface” on the TV set or remote control. This is where you would immediately landed on some content when you changed channels.

Freeview Australia, who represent Australia’s free-to-air TV networks, had established a hybrid-broadcast-broadband TV platform that integrates catch-up TV offerings and the real-time TV content from all of these networks under the Freeview Plus platform. This platform required you to purchase a new compliant Smart TV or set-top box and you weren’t sure whether your existing Smart TV could work with this, especially in the context of TV sets being considered durable items.

Now they have extended this Freeview Plus platform to mobile devices by creating an aggregated experience where you can switch between channels on the same app. It also allows for content to be searched across the live streams and the catch-up services so it is easier to pinpoint what you are after on your tablet.

But one feature I would provide for is to be able to determine the live streams that you want to be able to switch between so you can maintain the traditional viewing experience with your smartphone or tablet. This includes being able to switch between the channel you last viewed and the current channel which would play well with the after-Christmas ritual of watching the Boxing Day Test and the Sydney-Hobart yacht race, switching between them when the advertising plays.

At least what is happening is that a free-to-air integration platform like the different “Freeviews” operating in the Commonwealth countries is tackling the issue of free-to-air TV channels running Internet streams and providing an integrated viewing experience for mobile devices.

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The Nickname field is now of use for mobile assistant platforms

Article

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone

Android and iOS can support contacts’ nicknames with Google Now and Siri

Use Nicknames With Siri And Google Now To Reach Contacts Faster | Gizmodo

My Comments

Most smartphone operating systems have in their contact list a field called “Nickname”. This is typically of use when you have a personal nickname, relative-shortcut name like “Mum” or similar name for a contact. But in most cases, this field isn’t shown up on call logs or contact lists.

Now Siri and Google Now make use of the Nickname field to interpret instructions to call particular people. Google Now does provide inherent support for relationship-shortcut names but you can use the Nickname field for manually determining a contact’s nickname. Both voice assistants can query which person a nickname pertains to which can come in handy if you are calling one of many siblings or someone with an obscure nickname or a nickname that is spelt a certain way but pronounced another way.

How could this be improved upon?

Nicknames appearing in the contact-display context

At the moment, the nickname functionality only works in the contact-search context but I would like to see it also work in the contact-display context especailly when a call or text comes in from the contact or you browse through your contact list or recent / missed call logs. This could be facilitated through the use of a “Display As” field which shows a user-chosen field or combination of concatenated fields for a particular contact.

Support for a phonetic representation of a nickname

These systems could support the ability to store a phonetic representation of a nickname which can come in handy when you say that nickname one way but have it written another way. The phonetic representation would be used for voice-based search and voice-based call announcements.

Security issues with nicknames

Nicknames may expose security issues when they fall in to the wrong hands. It is because people use these nicknames as a “password” or “word of trust” within their community.  But confidence tricksters using familiar nicknames as a way to “get in to someone’s mind” and have them acquiesce to their inappropriate scheme. In some cases, a nickname that is a symbol of endearment may be used as a weapon against one or both of the participants.

Having nicknames as a “secure” field which is only shown to trusted users is important to preserve this kind of security. For example, if a phone shows a list of missed calls or text messages on the notification screen, it could show a standard “first-name last-name” or “company-name” while locked but show the nickname while unlocked. Similarly, voice-level biometrics can be used to authenticate a user who is “searching by nickname” using a voice-based personal assistant.

Further improvements needed for phone contact lists

Handling of common phone numbers

Another area where a lot of contact list programs miss out on is handling phone calls or other communication that comes in from pbone numbers, emails or other contact addresses common to two or more contacts.

The most common example is a landline phone number that serves as a “catch-all” number for a household, workgroup or business. In this case, you may instruct the voice assistant to call a person on that landline by saying “person-name Home” or “person-name Work” or something similar. This will place the call to that landline. The same thing will happen if you contact someone else who lives or works behind that common phone number.

The problem rears its ugly head when a call comes in from that phone number or you review your call logs and you see the first alphabetically-listed contact related to that “catch-all” number even though other contacts in your contact list are behind that number. Here you don’t know whom it was who called you or whom you placed that call to.

This could be facilitated using a dynamically-concatenated display field for phone numbers with something like [<company-name>(caller-name-1. caller-name-2, or caller-name-n] for callers with a populated company-name field; or [caller-name-1, caller-name-2 or caller-name-n] for callers missing a company-name field i.e. households. Or you may create a dedicated contact entry for the “catch-all” phone number such as a distinct “name-address-number” entry for a company or household. Then you add “common fields” like work number, home number or company name to the entries associated with the people with that same “roof” in common. The name associated with the dedicated contact entry shows up in the call log when you call that number or on your phone’s screen when they ring you from that “catch-all” telephone.

Conclusion

At least something is being done to make sure that the contact management software and voice-activated personal assistant software  is tied in to how we view our contacts so we see our contacts our way.

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