A look at Twitterfone


My weekly article for SMS Text News. Full text below.

Earlier this month, TwitterFone went live. This is the latest venture from telecoms entrepreneur Pat Phelan and adds a new dimension to Twitter by making it simpler to post messages to Twitter when you’re out and about. So how does TwitterFone work? You call an access number in your own country, leave a short message at the prompt; this is converted from voice to text and appears a few minutes later in your Twitter timeline. Each posted message also contains a unique URL which links to the TwitterFone website and allows anyone to hear the voice message you left. This is a really nice touch; it makes the message more personal and lets people hear what you said if the message didn’t transcribe 100%.

Messages can already be posted to Twitter when you’re out, via the mobile web site or via SMS. However there are times when neither interface is convenient, maybe when driving. Also, whilst texting is a simple and convenient way to communicate, the UK text number for Twitterfone is often excluded from inclusive SMS bundles by UK mobile operators (you know who you are!) because it’s an Isle of Man number sometimes charged at international SMS rates. So a voice call, out of inclusive minutes, is a more cost effective way to Tweet (post a message to Twitter). Using a mobile web interface may be convenient for mobile geeks but for the normobs out there, they need a simple way to post Tweets.

How well does the speech to text conversion work? In common with all speech to text conversion applications, TwitterFone will struggle in some scenarios, particularly with background noise, like traffic or wind. However I’ve been very impressed by the overall accuracy of the messages. In any event, the errors can add an air of ‘mystery’ to the Tweet!

Twitterfone has local numbers in 17 countries for easy and cheap access – UK
USA, France, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Canada, and Germany. Any user can call any local number, so when you’re travelling you just use the access number for the country you’re in – neat!

I think the real significance of TwitterFone is making Twitter simpler and easier for Normobs. Normobs expect mobile services to be simple and just work. And this is where TwitterFone scores. Making a call is the simplest (and oldest!) mobile activity!
Knowing Pat Phelan, TwitterFone won’t stand still and there’ll be lots of new features down the line. What would I like to see TwitterFone do? Have a facility to delete the message if you make a mistake when speaking. Be able to register multiple mobile numbers against a Twitterfone account so you can call in on any device – useful for us mobile geeks! Maybe send direct messages as well.

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