Going above and beyond their promise to save "time and annoyance" when screening, placing, or receiving calls, CallApp recently released their namesake app (a TechCrunch Disrupt 2012 finalist) to Google's Play Store.
CallApp – in what may be the biggest understatement of the week – bills itself as a "super caller ID," increasing call productivity with a set of handy interactive tools and quick informational displays for everyone that calls (or initiates a call with) you. The app pulls information from various services, including Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Foursquare and even your calendar or email, searching for the most relevant and timely info for each caller.
One of the great things about CallApp is that it not only pulls information about the entity on the other end of a call, but can be connected (at your discretion) to your own personal LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Foursquare, and Email accounts to show information including mutual friends, shared emails, or other things that connect you to the person who is calling you.
What's better, the app recognizes not only people, but businesses as well, pulling up reviews, locations, business hours, and links for Yelp, Streetview, Facebook, and more.
At the user's discretion, CallApp can also announce who is calling, show a post-call screen for an adjustable timeframe, and a lot more.
The app also delivers a ton of in-call functionality, allowing users to take notes, set timers, create meetings, and share things like links, contacts, and even apps or location information with the person on the other end of the call (assuming that person is also using CallApp). Users can also communicate with callers via Google Talk or Skype, or send a "wink."
You may be wondering what happens when CallApp isn't sure about its information. The creators have that covered too – the app will place a small question mark next to any uncertain information, and allows users to verify that information, making suggestions if the info is not correct.
Those wondering about CallApp's battery footprint (it pulls a lot of data, after all) will be interested to know that the app only pulls some of its information on demand, caching the rest locally. Some data can even be pre-loaded when your device is connected to Wi-Fi and charging.
Functionally, it's clear that CallApp is incredibly powerful, and it works as smoothly as anyone could want. It's worth mentioning though that CallApp requires tons of permissions to run. Of particular concern is an option called "CallApp Plus," which promises additional features and "millions of caller IDs." In return, the app will store and "verify" your entire contact list.
The app is vague (as is CallApp's Privacy Statement) on what it will do to "verify" contacts, but considering the fact that the app has permission to send SMS messages without notifying the user, we recommend not enabling the "Plus" features just yet. We have reached out to CallApp about this concern, and will update this post pending a reply.
Update 5/21/12: CallApp has responded, assuring us that the app in no way contacts the people in your contact list, but instead simply uploads their name and phone number to CallApp's servers. Marketing Director Gilad Bechar explains:
CallApp does not verify your contacts. NO ONE IN YOUR CONTACT LIST WILL BE CONTACTED BY CALLAPP IN ANYWAY. The wording is inaccurate and will be changed accordingly in our next version. What the text should convey is that CallApp will upload the user's contacts to CallApp's Universal Contact Book. The user can uncheck Enable CallApp Plus during the registration phase if they do not want to share their contact book. Note that it means that you will get less results and less features.
CallApp's Privacy Statement also reserves the right to "share Personal Information … to let our partners and affiliates serve you with commercials." It isn't exactly clear what this means, but it is important to note that the possibility for targeted advertisement is there.
That being said, the app's other permissions seem logical, given the extremely wide range of functionality it has to offer. Those concerned about the app's other permissions can take a look at the handy explanations on CallApp's website.
Update by Artem 5/22/12: I asked CallApp some more questions, and here's what they had to say (question in italics, answers in regular font):
At the moment, we are getting paid for each user who enter YELP from our app so that's another model as well and this is our direction of monetize it.
2. Is there a plan for a much more privacy-conscious app that you charge for, for example?
The privacy is very important for us and we will never break the privacy code otherwise we won't have a right to exist. We have no plans about what you suggested. We want to make this app much more awesome and it will be free like Facebook, Twitter etc.
3. Where are the auth tokens for social networks specifically stored - on the device or on your servers? Are they protected in any way?
All the social information is stored locally on the device and not in our servers! That means that if you uninstall the app and reinstall it again, you will have to insert your social users&passwords all over again.
4. How long did it take you to develop CallApp, as to me it already looked like a mature product with many smarts built in. I love it. How big is the team and where are you based?
The app was developed for about a year and a half with the best team in the world. We are based in Tel-Aviv, Israel, and our CTO is Amit On, the former CTO of Amobee who were sold earlier this year with $ 320M.
At the moment we are a team of 8 and this is our first live version. We are planning to add tones of new exiting features but we wanted to launch in TC so we had launched it without everything that we planned. There is a lot more coming soon :)
Overall, CallApp's interface is fairly intuitive. The app is clearly modeled after the stock Ice Cream Sandwich dialer, but the dialer looks like a slightly mutated variant, with additional search and quick-access elements. The in-call screen, while usable, has a jam-packed menu bar at the bottom which – in my opinion – has a bit too much going on in too small a space.
That being said, the rest of the call screen is actually quite useful, and really provides the bulk of CallApp's useful functionality – mutual contacts are listed on the right side of the screen, while information from various social services appears below the caller's photo. Your contact's name runs along the top in bold text, next to buttons that allow users to easily communicate with each other through various means.
CallApp's menu is fairly easy to navigate, allowing users to connect additional services in a snap, and control options for contact, action, and incoming call screens.
In the end, CallApp's interface works well – it's easy to navigate, gives users just about all the information they could ever want at once, and – while certain aspects aren't gorgeous – it's downright usable.
Overall, CallApp is easily the best app I've encountered in months. It brings functionality that I've been searching for since getting my first Android phone, and after playing with it for a while, I can't help but feel like this is what telephony on a smartphone was supposed to be.
While its "Plus" functionality still sounds a little fishy, the rest of the app is undoubtedly awesome, and definitely worth checking out. At the price of $0.00, there's absolutely no reason not to give it a try.