Ignore this post if you're getting tired of the "five years ago I wrote about blah blah blah" as this is another one of them. What can I say? The iPhone is just re-doing a ton of stuff that was happening when Symbian first hit the scene years ago and it reminds me of the olden days when I was young, smartphones were new, and the future was teeming with possibilities. Who knew that five years on we'd be seeing the same sorts of apps as back then?
Case in point is Palringo's new iPhone app, which just got updated with Push To Talk. I first wrote about FastChat's PTT app for Symbian phones in 2003 and I was pretty excited about it. Later on there came others, such as Buzzchat and Agile Messenger, but to tell you the truth, I still think the idea is pretty great. When I wrote about Palringo the other day I thought it was just a pretty good multiple-IM client for the iPhone, but at the end I added an update when I discovered that someone using a desktop client was sending voice messages, and they were being played automatically in the chat on my phone. That seemed to indicate that PTT was imminent, but even so it's great to see how quickly they updated the app (which was free, btw). It's such a cool experience actually you should try it out if you haven't.
I just used Palringo to sign on to my Jabber account and sent Jim (yeah, the same Jim from 5 years ago) an IM message using the push to talk. He got a link on his desktop which pointed him to this page where he could play it (excuse my froggy throat). It works just like it should over 3G with the sound being uploaded in just a couple seconds.
A few thoughts about this. I think this is a great way for mobile users to interact with PC users and with groups of other mobile users as well. In the first instance, it's great because mobile users can just talk into their phone, and not have to try to keep up with a PC-based person typing at 70wpm at their desk. The second instance is great because of the "broadcasting" nature of the voice stuff. If the sound is played automatically, like it is in the Palringo client, then multiple users can communicate with every other person in the chat pretty quickly and easily, regardless of their phone typing skills or number free hands. This would be *great* for use in on a bike or in a car.
Oh, that reminds me of an idea I had a long time ago about a CB-type system for commuters using mobile phones. The idea is that they could log into chat rooms filled with other drivers, all using Push To Talk phones, and have chats while driving to and from work. Palringo's desktop client apparently supports PTT as well, so even deskbound users could participate as well (say one of your friends stuck at work). Considering how much time people spend in cars, I'd say that's a killer app.
Anyways, I guess the nice thing about the resurgence of interest in smartphone apps since Apple launched their third party support last month means that ideas that were good the first time around, but for some reason never gained traction, will have a second chance to shine, and that's a good thing, no?