If you were to invent the concept of a phone call today, would it look the same as it does right now? After being the CEO of Sulake (the company behind Habbo Hotel) for around ten and a half years, Timo Soininen decided he wanted to do something other than “sell pixels the rest of his life.” Mid-September last year, he started building a team and formed Sunduka. The company’s first product, called Ringi, fits into Soininen’s vision of creating engagement marking tools for companies. But for consumers it seems like a logical update to how phone calls work.
“If you think about the history of mobile calls, for the past 40 years phone calls have not changed at all,” Soininen explains. “When the GSM standards were devised years ago, that people simply forgot to include visual elements in a call. Back then you had tiny black-and-white screens, but in the last five years the world has become very visual.”
Ringi seeks to change that by allowing users to book-end each side of a phone call with a picture from your phone or online gallery. You can also add a brief message letting people know why you are calling. If the recipient is unable to answer, your visual Ringi message can be viewed later from the Ringi app’s call log. Ringi also allows the caller to see the current status of the recipient – the “default” Ringi– so that people can visually communicate their status.
This turns phone calls into also a messaging status, allowing users to share their status with World Hockey Championships images, or Angry Birds “pigs in love” pictures. This may all seem unnecessary, but with contextual information it provides much more value when you consider how many calls are missed.
Ringi does not require access to a phone’s phonebook, allowing all calls to transmit rich messages. Soininen sees this space as another area business can leverage, giving companies the tools to brand all incoming and outgoing calls.
While a standard service like this seems valuable to users, it still might be hard to reach that critical mass. To get Ringi out there, the Sunduka has been talking to Operators and OEMs around the world, who are looking to differentiate their offering. These companies see the opportunity in this system as they are currently losing a lot of texting revenue from WhatsApp and other workarounds. Ringi puts another value-added service in operators’ hands, giving them another source of ad-based revenue.
“Basically for us it’s a massive opportunity,” says Soininen. “10-12 billion mobile calls are made daily but there’s very little information transferred. When receiving a call you’ll get a number and maybe a name. On Windows and Android you’ll maybe get a picture. It’s a very dull experience, you don’t know why people are calling and there’s no emotion being shown.”
Ringi is currently available as an Android app, with WP7, Ovi, and iOS coming soon. Sunduka chose Android as their lead platform for the 50% market share and its ease to build off of. But they’ve noticed that searching for “ringi” in Google Play does not bring up their app sometimes, a strange bug for a company built around search.