Contact, is the key element in your social life; but when you save your contact on your phone, it never becomes ‘social’ again. Think about this, you want to call a friend but forget his number or the number saved on your phone is wrong, luckily you know someone who must have it. So usually what you do is call that guy asking for the number. It’s nothing wrong but it could be more efficient. What if we sync our phone contacts with a cloud system, so automatically the system can build up a huge social graph for everyone as it ‘knows’ who has who’s number. And the interesting part is that whenever I need a contact, as long as my other friends has it, I can just send a simple request, and the system can even auto push the updated contact info back to me if it identifies there is an update. This is what we call Social Phone Contacts or Contacts in Cloud. Applications like Kik are working on the similar direction, but obviously there is more you can do around the phone contacts.
I recently talked Liu Ziyang, CEO of Hozom, a social contact solution provider founded in 2008. Having been working on the phone contacts for over 3 years, Liu’s opinion on the social contact, I would say, is inspiring.
So what can we do with the contacts:
- contact management – you can sync your phone contacts with the cloud service so whenever you change your phone exporting/importing the contacts would be a big issue. More important, as we mentioned at the beginning of this post, your social graph is built up in the cloud, which enables you get in touch with someone who appears on your friends’ contact.
- messaging service – obviously, with your phone number you can subscribe to some news feeds, weather service etc via sms/mms. And since the contacts are stored in the cloud, of course you can even do group chat, just like Kik. As your phone number is the unique identity, you can even enjoy some add-on services, e.g. cloud storage (save your pictures in the cloud and the account is linked with your number);
- calling service – as the contacts, not just your personal contacts but also the phone numbers of the public service, are now online, your social life could be much easier. Need the number of a restaurant for reservation, no need to spend time on service like Yell or Dianpin, the cloud would be able to tell in second. No need to say that you can still take the advantage of the traditional Internet call service, such as VoIP.
- e-business card – we need others’ business cards because we need their phone number and emails. I would not say the business card business will die, but it has started changing. If I trust you, maybe you can just send a request to the cloud system, I approve it, then my contact info will be pushed to your phone. Location-based check-in service is hot because we love to meet in person, but looking at the virtual avatars is getting boring, you need the real contact, via the cloud.
“When you leave your phone contacts in the cloud, your social life could be much easier and efficient. ” This is what Liu Ziyang believes. Hozom is now available for Java, Symbian and Android system and the iOS version is coming soon. Hozom has been working on the cloud contacts management in past 3 years, and now is ready for the bigger picture. Liu said its Kik service, called Foncr has been quietly launched for a while.
I believe in the cloud contacts idea too. But what I am worried about is that when this concept is accepted by more users, how can Hozom as a startup, to compete with the big companies such as Android phone manufacturers.