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The Phone Is the Least Advanced Part of a Smartphone

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Smart phone technology keeps getting more advanced: Phone cameras can nearly replace dedicated cameras, map apps have replaced GPS devices, and Angry Birds is now a legitimate competitor to the Xbox (MSFT). Yet, aside from features like the iPhone’s (AAPL) FaceTime, smartphones have made very few changes to how we make phone calls.

Well, according to the New York Times, that might be about to change. A new app out of San Francisco called Sidecar is looking to revolutionize the way that we call each other.

Sidecar releases for iPhone and Android (GOOG) Tuesday. Basically, the app revolves around the idea of “smart calling.”

Smart calling gives users the ability to share different sorts of data during a phone call without having to click around on their phone. As an example, the company suggests that Sidecar could be used to transmit a photo of a broken pipe directly to your plumber or a new pair of shoes to your wife. Along with photos, the app can also send location information, contacts, and video.

Of course, smartphones can already share all of this data, but Sidecar streamlines the process. Also, it’s free, as are calls to non-Sidecar users in the US and Canada (over WiFi).

Interested, I downloaded the app and managed to convince a friend help test it out. When opened, the app asked me for a few fairly standard pieces of info (first name, phone number), for permission to use my location, and if I wanted to import contacts (I said no).

The interface is sleek and attractive and Sidecar provides tips for use. These were at least a little redundant as, basically, it works like a phone.

I initially had trouble calling out, but that seems to have had more to do with my network than anything else. When I did make a call, everything, for the most part, worked fine. Selecting the “See what I see” option allowed my friend to see what was going on through my iPhone’s rear camera (the riveting image of the TV on in my living room), and pictures transferred quickly and easily from phone to phone.

Now, that said, I did have some mild issues with bugs and freezing, although again, these may have had something to do with my network. Beyond that, I noticed that a couple minute long call heated the phone up more than I would have liked.

Still, it’s a cool idea and the package is well put together and well executed. I’m not sure if Sidecar is the future of phones, but it’s certainly a step forward.
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