Java Inside and Outside your Cell Phone

My team and I are preparing to cover the 2004 JavaOne Conference, which is coming up next week (June 28 - July 1) in San Francisco.  In talking about my cell phone in yesterday's entry, I neglected to mention that both my current phone (the Nokia 3560) and the new one I'm lusting after (the Sony Ericsson T637) are Java-enabled.  You don't want to buy a phone these days that's not.

On the fun side, there are a gazillion games catalogued at java.com; I've got Snood and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell on my phone.  (Snood, by the way, I have installed on every device of mine that will have it, including my Palm Pilot.  There's no better way to pass the time if you're stuck in... anything. :)

And on the useful side, there's Cingular Wireless's Voice Connect service, for which I will happily pay $4.99 per month for the rest of my cell-phoning life.  This is great technology from BeVocal, a managed VoiceXML solution that runs on Sun hardware, the Solaris Operating System, and Sun Java System software.  There's a full write-up available for anybody who wants more information.

Here's what's so cool about it.

Whenever I'd get a new cell phone (I upgrade every couple of years), I'd have to spend weeks re-loading all my contact info into the new phone.  If I stuck with one manufacturer, and if that manufacturer provided reasonable I/O on the phone, it was possible to do the backup/restore thing -- but that serendipity's occurred only once for me.  And dialing was still a matter of trying to scroll through the phone book whilst not rear-ending the guy in front of me in Boston traffic, a dicey proposition under the best of circumstances.

With Voice Connect, all my contact info is stored on a secure server that I can't lose, drop, or run over.  I maintain the info via a conduit on my Pilot HotSync app; whenever I add, change, or delete an entry on my Pilot, it's updated on the Voice Connect system.  Couldn't be easier -- and I can change phones once a week, and my contact info will always be there for me.

The really cool part is how you access it.  You hit a speed-dial button on your phone, wait for the Voice Connect tones, and then say something like "Call MaryMary on her cell phone."  Voice Connect replies "Dialing...", and next thing you know, I'm talking to my friend.  I don't have to record her name, train the system on my voice, anything like that -- because the system simply has to figure out which of the relatively few and very discrete names I'm saying, not interpret an infinite number of possibilities.  If I have 200 names in my phonebook, it only has to pick the best match among the 200, which turns out to be a task it can manage with nearly 100% success.  The only trouble I've run into is at the airport, outside, trying to call the limo company -- it's so bloody noisy there, the system has a hard time hearing what I'm saying.  That's one instance where it may make sense to program a number directly into your phone.

The only other caveat, in the spirit of full disclosure, is that the HotSync conduit requires a Windows box for syncing.  You can manage your Voice Connect address book manually from any web browser, but if you want to do the Palm thing, you have to use a PC.  Proving that they are, in fact, good for something.  :)

Cingular adds more features to Voice Connect all the time.  There's the "Joke of the Day" service, if you're so inclined.  You can ask for a wake up call, and they'll phone you up to three times at whatever time you specify.  Best of all is their new "Escape-a-Date" service.  "Need a way out of a boring meeting or a blind date gone bad?  Just call Voice Connect and we'll get you out of it!"  What could be better than that?!

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