Skype – A Better Telephone?

Image of Skyper's Logo
Skype logo
Skype logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the ubiquitous presence of cell phones the need for traditional landlines seems to be drastically decreasing and many individuals and families are choosing to abandon landlines altogether for only cellular service. Still, cell phones aren’t a perfect solution. They generally are fairly expensive on a per minute conversation basis, have high roaming charges, and reception isn’t always amazing.

For me, Skype is and has been a service of great use – allowing me to move to cell-only, losing the landline, but at the same time keeping an inexpensive and constantly available alternative. Skype at its most basic is a free chat application – allowing users to converse via voice, video, and text. Where it passes far beyond many of its competitors is in its ability to call out to traditional phones (landlines and cells) and to receive calls from the same.

Skype offers all of this at drastically low prices. $2.95/mo. will let you call unlimited anywhere in the U.S. and Canada and $12.95/mo. will let you call unlimited to forty countries around the world. Add $60/yr. onto this and you get inbound calls with your own traditional phone number. Finally, dump on voicemail for another $20/yr. All told you are paying $116/yr. for unlimited calls within the U.S. and Canada!

And Skype will travel with you. Going on a vacation? Business trip? If you have your laptop and a internet connection you can make calls with your Skype.

Skype also offers a number of advanced features for businesses and individuals – such as normal phones that use Skype – offering traditional phone convenience without the need to use a computer (though they shouldn’t be used for emergency 911 calls). A whole ecosystem of products has grown around Skype – some of them quite advanced and feature-filled.

Take a look at Skype. Its free. If you want some of the premium features – it does cost, but they won’t trick you into buying anything and if you do buy a subscription from them its amazingly reasonable.

Dear Spotify

Image of Various Spotify Apps

I’ve been using Spotify for 2+ years now, it deserves a longevity award. It also deserves some sort of honor for being one of the few subscription services I dole out for on a monthly basis1I no longer pay fro a subscription. I am happy with the ad-supported version. Sure, its a little annoying, but I don’t listen to music enough these days to make a full account worthwhile. – placing it alongside Netflix – and everybody has Netflix.Spotify Client Apps

In spite of a number of other options, including from mega companies like Google and Amazon, I still prefer Spotify. It is entirely free if you don’t mind the ads and the premium account is $5/mo $10/mo.

That said, I do have a few things I’d love for Spotify to incorporate:

  1. Tagging – Playlists are cool, they are like categories, but everyone knows that you need categories and tags (ala WordPress). I like creating playlists – but what if I want to listen to a song on a specific subject? Or what if the song is on multiple subjects? Yes, I can create multiple playlists – but this quickly becomes cumbersome.
  2. Listens – It would be great if Spotify displayed how many times one has listened to a song. I am an explorer – always trying out new bands, new albums – and oftentimes forgetting who I’ve listened to previously and which songs. If I could see how many times I’ve listened to the song it would allow me to more efficiently explore.
  3. Searching Artists, Songs, Albums – I’ve listened to a lot of artists and this list of artists (or songs or albums) can become overwhelming. Sometimes I know I want to listen to an artist that begins with some letter or word, but I can’t remember its name in its entirety, it would be great if I could search only what is in “Your Music.”
  4. Language / Topic Filters – I know that Spotify includes “explicit content” warnings on songs, but I’ve listened to far too many songs that had “explicit content” and weren’t marked as such. This becomes important when (a) one is playing the music in the presence of others who might find the content offensive, (b) one finds it offensive, or (c) one is allowing Spotify to post to one’s Facebook timeline and has an audience that includes individuals of young(er) age for whom such content might be inappropriate.
  5. Shazam Functionality – If I am listening to the radio in the car I still have to use Shazam to find out and save what song I’m listening to. Adding this functionality into Spotify’s mobile app would be huge…especially since Shazam now makes me integrate with Rdio.

Which of these features? Or what other features would you like to see in Spotify?

Tungle.me – A Swift Scheduling Application / One Feature Missing.

Image representing Tungle.me
Image via CrunchBase

[Service no longer exists]

Tungle.me is a swift calendaring application which reduces the complexity of setting up meetings. It allows you to define times of availability when someone can request a meeting with you. Individuals can then request meetings without needing to call, etc. and you have the opportunity to confirm or deny these meetings. You don’t have to constantly explain when you are available – and your clients don’t continuously have to struggle to figure out when you have some available time. It is a pretty slick, web-based (and mobile) application that integrates into existing calendaring (like Microsoft Outlook).

It is missing one feature (IMHO). For me, I have certain availability ranges. For example, I may be available for breakfast, lunch, or dinner – and I might be available to do these between 7-9 a.m., 11 a.m. -2 p.m., and so on – but I can only realistically do one of these for each segment. If I have a lunch from 11-12 on Tuesday I cannot also have a lunch from 12-1 or 1-2. It’d be nice if Tungle allowed me to specify within a range of time how much of that time can be utilized for meetings.

I imagine I am not the only one for whom this would be useful. In my particular instance I am employed full-time and I would use Tungle to handle meetings associated with my position as elder / youth minister at my local church. I have some flexibility in when I take a break, but can’t take that break for extended periods of time – since I have other responsibilities. It would also seem handy for counselors – who optimally should schedule only a certain number of clients each day even if they have additional time slots open – this way ensuring that they have time for paperwork and case review.