We had the exclusive opportunity to speak with Tru Labs’ Adam Linford regarding the Truphone App and the paths Truphone will tread in the near and far future. Needless to say, the interview has touched on a great many issues that consumers have not only asked in the Tru help forums, but have sent to us as well.
We have touched on a few Tru SIM Local Anywhere topics before, so much of what Mr. Linford had to say was regarding the Tru VoIP App.
Q: What is [Tru] Labs?
A:.Labs is a delivery mechanism for Tru. We’ve been set up to operate in a non-blocking manner within Truphone, such that we can put in place a regular, fast, iterative, feedback loop with our users. Our work will be released as soon as they are feature complete, and then we’ll look to work with our users, analysing their usage patterns and building their feedback into the product, updating content as regularly as possible.
In terms of what we’re working on, we’re responsible for all mobile application development, as well as other new and exciting ideas Tru has for innovative products and services.
Q: It has been stated that the focus of the Tru App’s next version is on quality. What steps has Tru taken to ensure their apps meet higher quality standards?
A: Well, our drive on quality exists at all levels of our team. We’re selecting features and services that help provide a reliable, secure, efficient real-time communications stack. We’ve ripped out huge chunks of the core of our voice and messaging engines, and replaced or reworked them to deliver a better service. We’ve simplified our feature-set and refined our UI to make sure we can offer a great user experience. Our approach to testing is more rigorous and comprehensive; we’re covering everything from small pieces of code, all the way to automated end-to-end service tests. We’ve upgraded large parts of our network infrastructure as well.
Q: According to reviews by customers on the Android Market as well as many users of the Tru Desktop App, the inability to log into Skype via the Tru App has been one of the biggest drawbacks. Can you tell us at this time if this is something the next version will fix or will Skype and other IM services be removed?
A: I can confirm we are removing support for 3rd party IM services. The problem is this: Many of these networks don’t want to be open to users from other networks. They go out of their way to make their protocols hard to work with to ensure that only their own clients can work with the network. That means every time they change something about how they work, our interface with their network breaks. We have to then reverse engineer the change (they certainly don’t tell us what they’ve changed!), then spend an indeterminate amount of time applying that change to our network applications, then putting it live. Think about how many networks we interface with currently, and how many changes they make a year. That’s a lot of resource required in Tru on maintenance, and potentially a lot of downtime for our users, that we have no control over.
So we’re taking it all out. We only want to offer our users a great user experience. If we can’t feasibly offer that, we don’t want to offer anything.
The good news is we are looking to operate in a proper federated fashion with any network that is interested in interfacing with us using open standards. And, we’ve some really cool ideas about how we can change the service such that it offers some great new features that people haven’t seen before.
Q: There are many differences between the features for each version of the Tru App. For instance, the BlackBerry version has no IM features and some Android devices do not have a “Tru Contacts” or “Tru Friends” tab to allow other Tru users to be added to contacts in order to take advantage of free Tru to Tru calling. Are there any plans to make the App the same or more unified across all the operating systems like some other VoIP services have done?
A: Each app that gets updated, or new app that gets brought out, will have a core set of features that we have designated to be ‘the Tru service’.
Q: Tru Labs has told us previously that beta builds will be made available to Tru users. Will these beta builds be available only on the Tru Labs website or are there plans to make them available in the respective app stores?
A: The stores will have the current production release, as will the Labs site. The labs site will also have beta’s for existing apps (where the platform allows it), such that we can test and get feedback on the new stuff we’re working on.
Q: Is there a confirmed or an estimated timeframe for when the new version of the App will be made available?
A: There is a good idea of what projects will appear in Labs when we open it up to the public. There is a reasonable idea of the timeframe in which that will happen, but not written in stone. At that point, things will be made available as soon as they are ready.
Q: Does Tru Labs plan to expand beyond the Tru VoIP App in the near future, as in new apps, VoIP through gaming consoles, or new frontiers?
A: We know real-time communications really well, and we’ll always stay in this area. There is a lot of revolution left in this space, and we’ll definitely be looking to expand the number of endpoints on our network, such that we can deliver quality services to more people in new and interesting ways.
“It’s very important people understand that Labs is not Apps,” Mr. Linford told TruTower. “It just happens to be responsible for those products as well.”
Mr. Linford also told us that if customers want to get involved and send in suggestions for the Tru App, the best ways right now are by following @trulabs on Twitter or by contacting Tru Labs directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. They should also sign up for notifications at http://labs.truphone.com.
It sounds like a very bright and eventful future for Tru, their services, and their customers. We look forward to riding this wave of the future as well as we continue our efforts to be the #1 source for Tru information.