For the last week I've been using a promising new application called TalkPlus on my Nokia N95. In beta now, it does three things:
- Allows you to attach more than one phone line to your mobile phone. There's no need to have multiple SIMs or accounts. Rather, TalkPlus lets you simply add phone lines — like your office line, your personal mobile phone, and your home phone — to your handset. You can also add virtual lines, which simply terminate on the cellular handset. From that point forward, any calls you make can be made presenting the caller ID that you choose.
- Allows you to save money on your phone bill by making every cellular call into a local call. That means I can call friends on the west coast, or in Europe, but only pay for local Ottawa minutes (plus a few pennies per minute to TalkPlus). With the confusing array of cellular options available, this means a radical simplification for many of us.
- Host conference calls from the handset. Simply select the people you wish to have join the call, and it will call them and bring them into the call, using the same low TalkPlus rates.
Getting started with TalkPlus is easy. Visit the TalkPlus web sign up, create an account, select a TalkPlus viritual number, specify your mobile phone number, and wait. A short while later a text message arrives in your inbox which allows you to do an over-the-air install. Once completed, visit the applications menu, select TalkPlus, enter your account information, and you'll be up and running.
Note: if you're a heavy address book user (I tend to synch everything from Outlook to my phones), the application MAY crash. Current betas have trouble with some of address fields in the phonebook, and work best with just names and phone numbers. So for now, don't synch Outlook with your phone. Simply add a few numbers.
The first place to visit is the profiles page. There you will see that you have a device profile, and a TalkPlus number profile. From here you can simply select a profile, and make a call. Whichever profile you've selected will be the caller ID which is presented to the recipient of the call. Calls made using the TalkPlus virtual number are billed at your cellular rate, plus the TalkPlus rate. Calls made using your device profile are billed at your cellular rate alone. Calls made to the TalkPlus number ring through on your telephone when dialed. In addition, you can also add other profiles, such as a work number, which you can select as your identify for outbound calls.
Next visit the TalkPlus phonebook. Here, on an individual by individual basis, you can select which profile will be the default profile used to call that person. From that point forward, whenever you make a phone call the caller ID of the profile which that person is associated with will be used, and calls will be billed at… you guessed it… your low price local calling rate plus TalkPlus' nominal rates.
In addition, TalkPlus allows you to select multiple people from your address book, and have them conferenced together.
It also provides a voice mail box with a nice visual voice mail feature (take that iPhone!), and the ability to be notified via SMS when new voice mails arrive and to send those voice mails to your email box.
TalkPlus features are also accessible from a web site. In addition to the features available on the handset, the website allows you to make outbound calls a la Jajah, apply some basic filtering criteria to incoming calls, and manage account settings.
TalkPlus draws together threads from all of the major VoIP / Voice 2.0 themes many of us have been writing about in the industry. For instance:
- You can have up to 10 virtual numbers. With their voice mail features, and conferencing, this will makeTalkPlus a credible unified communications solution.
- You can have those 10 virtual numbers in any location you want. Now individual business people can easily have a presence, with calls terminating on their mobile phones, in any of the cities they do business.
- TalkPlus disintermediates the cellular carrier for long distance. It will save people outside the United States (like we poor abused Canucks) a ton of money on cellular phone plans.
Features I would like to see:
- iotum-like call filtering. The filtering in TalkPlus is primitive today. I'd like to be able to automatically reroute calls to my deskphone or cellphone depending on time of day, caller-ID, what I am currently doing, where I am and other criteria. The most important, though, is time of day. With unlimited evenings and weekends common on cellular phones, I want to redirect incoming calls to my deskphone, minimizing daytime use of the cellular phone in order to save money.
- presence. I'd like to know the availability of folks before I make the call.
One nit: choosing to focus on Nokia handsets is a little puzzling. While the Nokia handsets are superb, a unified communications application like TalkPlus more properly belongs on a business handset such as Windows Mobile or BlackBerry. In conversation with TalkPlus CEO Jeff Black last week, he indicated that BlackBerry would be their next focus.
Nevertheless, the TalkPlus beta is very impressive. It's solid, and has many useful time and money saving features. And for devotees of Jajah, Truphone and Rebtel, like myself, it has raised the bar on the user experience.