Sidecar App Lets You Share Photos, Location and Live Video During Calls

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Despite what hyperbolic pundits might tell you, the phone call is not dead. But it could use a kick in the pants. That’s what Sidecar is trying to do with new apps for iPhone and Android.

Sidecar supplements traditional phone calls with photos, video and other info, which users can share back and forth as they talk. When two Sidecar users converse, they see a list of these sharing options on the dialer.

“See what I see” sends live video from the phone’s rear or front camera to the other caller. Users can also send photos, share their locations on a map–I’m imagining a “meet me here in 15 minutes” scenario–or send details from their contact lists. A “whisper” feature lets users send text messages during a call, which is useful if you walk into a noisy room and can’t hear anything.

On Android, incoming calls from Sidecar use your existing ringtone and notification screen. The iPhone version only displays a pop-up notification and alert tone, because Apple doesn’t allow apps to access core phone functions. If you want Sidecar to replace standard phone calls, it’s easier to do so on Android.

Sidecar’s media features only work if both users have the app, so the big challenge for the company is getting people on board. As a lure, Sidecar offers free Wi-Fi calling to any phone number in the United States or Canada, or to any other Sidecar user in the world. Users who don’t have the app get a text message at the end of the call, imploring them to check out the app.

I like the idea behind Sidecar, but I wonder if it’s ahead of its time. As mobile data becomes faster, and standalone phone calls continue to decline, we may see wireless carriers launch their own multimedia calling systems, more deeply integrated with the phone itself and designed to drum up data use. Sidecar offers a taste of what this could be like, but if it becomes a modest success, it might just nudge the carriers along faster.

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