Thrutu’s In-Call Media Sharing App Comes to the iPhone

7/20/11Follow @wroush

Since March 3, when Palo Alto, CA-based Thrutu introduced its Android app for sharing photos, contacts, and map locations during a voice call, more than 250,000 Android phone owners have downloaded the app. That’s a lot for an Android app, so Thrutu vice president Liz Rice seemed pretty happy when I spoke with her yesterday. But she added that many of these Android users had a surprising request: they wanted Thrutu to build an iPhone version.

“The number one request from our Android users was, ‘This is great, but half of my friends have iPhones, so we need an iPhone version,’” Rice says.

Today, Thrutu is delivering on that request. Apple added the new iPhone edition of the free app to the iTunes App Store this morning. Now somebody with an Android can ring somebody with an iPhone (these two species do speak with each other occasionally, we’ve heard) and use Thrutu’s media-sharing features during the call, assuming the app is installed on both phones.

What are those features? You can select an existing image from your phone’s photo album and send that, or you can snap a new one. You can send your location, which will show up on a live map on the other person’s phone. You can send contact details for someone in your phone’s address book. Or you can “prod” the other caller—a whimsical feature that simply causes their phone to vibrate.

I’ve been testing all those features today, and the app works exactly as advertised. The Android version of Thrutu has additional capabilities, such as a “doodle” button that lets you draw on top of a picture or map, a PayPal button that lets users exchange digital cash, a coin-toss button that can help with mutual decision making, and a growing gallery of other options. Rice says those features will come to the iPhone soon, but that the startup submitted a more basic version to Apple’s App Store because “we wanted to get something out as soon as we could.”

There are plenty of other apps, such as Bump, that let smartphone users exchange data such as images or contact details. But Thrutu is the first one designed to work during an active phone call, thus bringing down what Thrutu chief technology officer Chris Mairs calls the “barrier between the voice aspects of telephony and the data aspects.” Say you’re on the phone to your sister and her three-year-old kid does something cute; she can snap an image and send it to you immediately. Or you’re meeting someone for coffee but he’s not sure where you are—you can send him your location and let him navigate to you.

All of the features work by setting up a data communications channel between two phones via wireless data networks, in parallel to a voice call—a neat technical trick that took quite a bit of behind-the-scenes programming at Thrutu, which is the … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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