FirefoxOS 3 Ideas: Hack The Phone Call

People are brainstorming ideas for FirefoxOS 3, and how it can be more user-centred. Here’s one:

There should be ways for apps to transparently be hooked into the voice call creation and reception process. I want to use the standard dialer and address book that I’m used to (and not have to use replacements written by particular companies or services), and still e.g.:

  • My phone company can write a Firefox OS extension (like TU Go on O2) such that when I’m on Wifi, all calls transparently use that
  • SIP or WebRTC contacts appear in the standard contacts app, but when I press “Call”, it uses the right technology to reach them
  • Incoming calls can come over VoIP, the phone network or any other way and they all look the same when ringing
  • When I dial, I can configure rules such that calls to certain prefixes/countries/numbers transparently use a dial-through operator, or VoIP, or a particular SIM
  • If a person has 3 possible contact methods, it tries them in a defined order, or all simultaneously, or best quality first, or whatever I want

These functions don’t have to be there by default; what I’m arguing for is the necessary hooks so that apps can add them – an app from your carrier, an app from your SIP provider, an app from a dial-through provider, or just a generic app someone writes to define call routing rules. But the key point is, you don’t have to use a new dialer or address book to use these features – they can be UI-less (at least when not explicitly configuring them.)

In other words, I want to give control over the phone call back to the user. At the moment, doing SIP on Android requires a new app. TU Go requires a new app. There’s no way to say “for all international calls, when I’m in the UK, use this dial-through operator”. I don’t have a dual-SIM Android phone, so I’m not sure if it’s possible on Android to say “all calls to this person use SIM X” or “all calls to this network (defined by certain number prefixes) use SIM Y”. But anyway, all these things should be possible on FirefoxOS 3. They may not be popular with carriers, because they will all save the user money. But if we are being user-centric, we should do them.

6 thoughts on “FirefoxOS 3 Ideas: Hack The Phone Call

  1. Having a unified (and optimized, beautiful, slick) UI for different telephony and messaging protocols would really be an awesome selling point. I remember my N900 that had something like this, where using the mobile network or sip was completely transparent.
    Android is kind of lame in this regard. There is thousands of messaging apps, but one is worse than the other when it comes to UI and system integration.

  2. “doing SIP on Android requires a new app”
    Nit: No, Android have native sip-functionality.”Settings”->”Call”->”Internet call settings”. (but that was not the point of your post, I know).

  3. Android apps like Skype or SIP applications *can* hook into the default dialer, and do. But it’s not totally seemless, you just end up in the app after using the dialer.

  4. Could be done. Put Asterisk on the phone (it already solves the routing problem), create or borrow a UI for configuring the dialing rules, then let apps supply rules as well.

    The way it “works” on Android is terrible. If you’ve got Google Voice and another SIP dialer, then sending a call out through that other dialer requires you to answer two questions in a row. Worse, there’s no actual cooperation; each app is asking you separately what you want to do, so you can send yourself back and forth between them.