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Summary:

Thrutu is introducing a new free Android application that allows users to easily share their location, contacts and pictures during a phone conversation. The company hopes to replicate the interaction people experience when talking face to face by enabling better multitasking within calls.

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While some multitasking smartphone users have learned to share information and content while on a call, it’s not a common practice. But a new mobile app is looking to mine that use case as an opportunity by helping users share their location, contacts and pictures during a phone conversation.

Thrutu, a division of Sequoia-backed Metaswitch Networks, is introducing a new free Android app of the same name today that integrates with the native phone client. When two Thrutu users are in a call, they can choose from five options to interact with their conversation partner. They can push their location to the other user, who sees where they are on a map. They can also snap a picture or send one from their gallery. Contacts can also be shared with a quick action. And users can also “prod” each other by activating a quick vibration notification on other phone.

You can do most of this stuff today on different apps or through some simple multitasking on devices. Users on GSM smartphones can e-mail or text contact information or pictures or send them via Bump after an initial connection. But Thrutu believes it can make the process of sharing more widespread by simplifying the act and making it possible from within the phone app. Liz Rice, VP of Thrutu, said many people don’t know how to share during a conversation, avoid it because it’s more complicated or they fear disconnecting a call. Some save it for after a call but forget to follow through. Thrutu, said Rice, allows some of the interactivity people are used to having when talking in person.

“This is real-time; it’s impulsive; it’s spontaneous,” Rice said. “We’re fundamentally about sharing things within a phone a call.”

The app won’t work on CDMA phones because it needs to use both voice and data at the same time, though it can use Wi-Fi to connect when in range. It will, however, work on Sprint and Verizon 4G phones, which use 3G for voice. An iPhone version is due out next quarter, with a BlackBerry app expected later this year. Rice said the company has tested the iPhone app in its labs and doesn’t foresee any problems integrating with iOS. Down the road, the company sees opportunities in helping people share other content, like calendars, videos and video games.

Thrutu has some clear limitations that will hold back its growth initially. But I think there’s an opportunity here because the phone is already social and as we’ve said before, the phone address book is our real social network. By enabling more easy sharing within a call, we’re getting beyond straight communication and into what Om says is the real opportunity: interactions, the synchronous interplay between people that replicates face-to-face conversations. Group social messaging apps are also moving in this direction though more through text. But sharing over voice is also going to be a key part of that too.

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  1. Chris Wooldridge Saturday, March 5, 2011

    It’s interesting, and awesome, but not new.

    We built an identical app on Symbian handsets for the Vodafone UK innovation team in 2004/2005 and were subsequently funded as uiActive (now xumii) to commercialise this.

    I blogged the details here:

    http://wooldridge-consulting.blogspot.com/2011/03/thrutu-in-call-and-awesome-but-not-new.html

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