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The story of Droid Juice!

Last year while researching about network coverage during train travel for Pyka, I did a small hack to log signal strength for a given location. I used it during my trip to Chennai and data was logged using a background process in my Android phone for every kilometer. Incidentally my onward and return journeys were in different routes. When we visualised using Google Fusion Charts, it was quite telling. There were many deadspots which would be impossible to detect otherwise. During this exercise, my droid had to be fed with constant power to keep it running. :)

We build products for travel and recently did several interviews with frequent travellers. We repeatedly heard people saying they usually turn off data just to conserve battery life. They were also concerned about running out of juice and becoming unreachable. This sparked an idea to build a public battery profile for people displaying the last known battery status. So, if someone is not reachable, one can find out if it is because of running out of juice.

During last week’s Droidcon India Hack Night, I teamed up with Sandeep and Santhosh to build the basic version. Thanks to Muthuraj for suggesting that we fall back to SMS when the battery is really low, which we’ll add in a future release. In the past few days, the hack got spit and polish from Team Ideophone and it’s now available for download from the Play Store. :)

The heart of the app is a shareable battery profile. However, as pointed out in this Pluggd.in article, when more and more people start using it, our data will show which Android phones have better battery life in real life scenarios. While price and feature comparisons of Android devices abound, it’s high time we had battery performance halls of fame and shame! The high point was to know that Sundars Ace had a really low juice retention factor and he wasn’t complaining for nothing all these days. :)

 

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Suruk gets more love

We didn’t stop with a Hello Android! for Suruk. We wanted the shiny new Android version to be as cool and useful as its award winning JavaME sister. So, the Android version now has the route finder as well as community feedback for drivers. With route finder, one can find the approximate fare for the trip in advance as well as check the route on the map. You can rate the driver after your ride as helpful, honest, or rude depending on your experience. That’ll help the community to identify which auto or taxi to trust for their rides. You can benefit from others’ feedback the same way. We’re planning to use the aggregate data creatively so as to reward the highest ranked drivers as well as identify the top offenders.

RoutefinderDriver Rating

Do try the updated Suruk and let us know how you liked it, please.

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Hello Android!

It’s been two years (just a week short) when we first demonstrated  Suruk at Mobile Tech 4 Social Change, a bar camp organised by MOMOB. During those days we didn’t have a GPS enabled mobile phone and hence used emulators on our PC for demonstration. It was during that event that we met Renuka from Bangalore Mirror who featured us gloriously on its front page. We then didn’t anticipate that  Suruk would evolve into Ideophone. Looking back we have come a long way with more than 30,000 downloads in 138 countries across various app stores.

Ever since the boom of Android in India, we have been getting large number of requests from users asking about Android version of Suruk. Though it was on our roadmap, we were working on our other products. All three of us migrated to Android  phones and then realised that we didn’t have Suruk built for our phones yet. Just then, our interns Vishal and Jahnavi joined our team and they nudged us to work on the Android version. A perfect deadline came in the form of Appnomy where Suruk was chosen for a demo and we completed it just in time. Given that it’s a two-year old stable app on Symbian, the spec was just cut out.

Today at Appnomy we launched Suruk with its shiny new UI for Android and were enthralled by the audience response. You can now download for your Android phone.

Do tell us your feedback and follow us on twitter @suruk

 

 

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How Pyka calls from the cloud?

A few months ago, when we were brainstorming Pyka, we realised that a reliable and scalable telephony system is critical. That’s when I started exploring platforms that would meet our requirement. One of the cloud telephony platforms widely recommended across various forums was Twilio. I stumbled across this amazing twilio demo and this is now my personal benchmark for a good product demo. Though I was happy with the features, outgoing calls to India were a bit expensive (about Rs.4 per call).

I came to know about TringMe, an Indian cloud telephony platform and they had better pricing and we built our proof of concept using that. We were convinced with the idea and started building the whole framework. All we wanted was to play an audio message when the user picks up the call. This wasn’t possible directly in TringMe and we had to internally place another call to achieve it. Just then, our friend Raja of Hexolabs suggested Tropo. I found Tropo simpler than Twilio and, more importantly, the pricing was attractive. Making an outbound call to a phone number and playing an audio was as simple as,

<?php
call("+91955550100");
say(“welcome.mp3”);
?>

We finally decided to go ahead with Tropo for our MVP after we saw their excellent customer support. Our queries were answered within a couple of hours and this gave us complete confidence. We wanted fine-grained control on the outgoing calls as our system had to call multiple times till the user picks up the call.

After we completed the MVP pilot testing, we wanted to build a robust platform with redundancy. We had to keep the cost per call low as well. That’s when we came across Mobme, whose call rates were lower and they had a very rich response format. Their support team was responsive too. So, now we use Mobme for our voice calls for Pyka with an automatic fallback on Tropo.

Some of the interesting telephony startups that I came across during this time are Exotel, KooKoo and Miglu. Let us know if there are other interesting cloud telephony platforms that I might have missed.

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