CallApp’s Social Trawling: Too Much Information?

CallApp was the “social dialtone” smartphone enhancement that got many of us excited at TechCrunch NYC a few months back. In covering telecom, I should add, you develop a low-threshold for ‘wow’. But CallApp is a hybrid telecom-social media creature that has real potential.

After this Israeli startup released a beta version earlier this month, I installed their app on my HTC Android and have been living with it since. Even without all the info crumbs it automatically vacuums from the Web, the CallApp dialer is a welcome change from the sterile Android interface.

When CallApp pops-up with the caller’s contact page, you’re greeted with the location of the caller, time and date of your last conversation, and that call’s duration. Pretty good so far. If the other party also has CallApp, you have a few more options, like sharing your location or sending messages without going through that antiquated SMS thing.

It gets even better–though I’m still a little undecided– when you let CallApp access your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ networks. While browsing the CallApp contact list or receiving a call from that person, you’re now presented with the latest tweet, Facebook like, and any job info scarfed from LinkedIn. While not entirely perfect in connecting a name in your Android phonebook to a Twitter or Facebook account, CallAPp does well enough.

This can be useful when calling people from the work world–“great tweet!” or ‘congrats on promotion’ could be your more informed greeting. CallApp also automatically populates its phonebook with new names and other contact data from your social network buddies.

Nice touch, but CallApp has an even more convenient feature. If your company’s email server happens to be on MS Exchange (as mine is), and you’ve configured an account on your Droid, CallApp automatically scoops up even more specific information (presumably from Active Directory), including address and phone number of workmates if you don’t already have it.

But all this ambient social media stream can border on a distraction–do you really need to know that your friends hated their risotto last night when you click on their CallApp contact photo?. Isn’t that why you’re calling them in the first place–to be surprised and learn something new?

In a more I’m-embracing-the-modern-world note, this immediate access to the social ether does have practical benefits, especially when your phone contacts include local businesses. With this recent frankenstorm, you’ll know which restaurants, cafes, and hardware stores have decided to open or instead remain closed based on their Tweet and Facebook postings.

That’s useful: saving loads of time as you scramble around to find a hot meal. I also learned that CallApp has a special talent for finding menu details from food-oriented contacts.

Overall, CallApp is a very promising concept and an app that I recommend trying. There’s currently only an Android version available in Google Play. An iPhone variant is on the way.

This beta version does have–I’m practically being redundant–some glitches and hiccups It takes its sweet time in identifying and pulling in the appropriate social content. And you also have to wonder how the backend will handle new users feeding the CallApp backend an ever increasing load of contacts to filter on and published to devices in something like real-time.

Just sayin’.