Swaths of people currently make no phone calls at all, a recent study found.
And why should they? Multimedia-packed electronic social networks, text messaging, smartphone cameras and cheap air travel make the traditional, intrusive voice call somewhat redundant.
However, voice does still have its place in communication. It’s good for explaining things, for one thing.
It’s probably even better for explaining something when the live voice explanation is accompanied by an image of what the person is trying to explain:
A map with real-time voice directions; or an industrial part image along with a verbal request to a warehouse order-taker could be another.
Unfortunately this kind of mobile, integrated, enhanced calling hasn’t existed before.
But that’s about to change. Voice plus multimedia is part of the thinking behind what could be a revolutionary change in the way we make phone calls.
Rich Communication Services (RCS) being rolled out by Mobile Network Operators is a way to add context to a mobile voice call. MNO Vodafone in the United Kingdom is about to launch it under the moniker Call+.
‘Are you around?’
A key functionality is pre-calling. The caller can let the person being called know in advance that they’re wanted in a call. Questions such as “Are you around?” can be asked by textual means, before the actual voice call is placed.
This solves one of the main complaints of traditional voice calling—it’s intrusive.
Additionally, images can be attached to the voice call session either before the call is placed—it appears in the calling screen.
Or, images, video, maps and hand drawings can be introduced during the course of the voice call. Essentially multimedia sharing is brought to “the humble voice call,” Vodafone says in a blog post about the launch.
And if the recipient isn’t available, text or voice messages can be left with the missed call notification for the proposed recipient.
Talk dark ages
“Call+ is a service designed to bring the phone call into the 21st century,” Vodafone says, quite accurately, in the blog post. Mobile voice calling hasn’t progressed with the same leaps and bounds as smartphones, text and multimedia.
Conceptual calling missteps, industry-wide have included pitching video chat as the ‘big thing’ which never really replaced voice.
Despite voice being a useful medium, it’s been stuck in the dark ages. About the only good thing about its progress to date is that it’s gotten cheaper—the days of the over a dollar-a-minute international calls are over.
However, to give voice technology its due, there’s been a reason for the lethargy, and that’s bandwidth. It’s only with the introduction of Wi-Fi calling that this kind of Call+ multimedia add-on is possible.
Vodafone in the U.K. switched-on Wi-Fi calling last month for some devices. Wi-Fi calling lets mobile subscribers call over Internet connections.
A quarter of U.K smartphone users make no calls in a given week, the recent aforementioned study found. I’ve written about that report before in “More evidence traditional voice calling is disappearing.”
By 2018, almost 50% of smartphone owners won't make standard phone calls weekly, the report says. Issues studied include the intrusive nature; and a user preference for multimedia.
Maybe Call+ and its ilk could change the prediction.
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