All throughout the day my smartphone use is centered on cycling through a number of different apps. I check Facebook to see what my friends are doing, and I check Twitter to see what is going in the the world and the mobile technology industry. Of course, I check my e-mail, and I check in on Weatherbug to find out the current weather conditions. Is the constant process of opening app after app a good or bad thing?
Microsoft thinks that the current mobile app metaphor is a bad thing, and has designed Windows Phone 7 to consolidate information in hubs and provide information via live tiles so that one can quickly get the information they seek. A beta Android app called reQall Rover provides a similar form of consolidation, but in a more elegant way, in a single Android app.
The invite-only beta of reQall Rover began in March and at the beta launch they provided the ability to sign up for the beta, but that has since been removed. I signed up in March and last week I finally received my invitation code, although I suspect that the official launch of reQall Rover may not be far away.
The developers of reQall Rover call it a personalized assistant. One of the first things you need to do is connect reQall Rover to various services including Facebook, Gmail, Google Calendar, and reQall. ReQall is a location-based to-do list application and service available for iOS and Android devices and is a separate app and service from reQall Rover, although both are from the same company.
In the screenshot you see the results of what reQall Rover calls a Here and Now refresh, which is a consolidation of information pulled from multiple web sites and applications. If you have an upcoming appointment with a person, you will see a link to that person’s name on the screen, otherwise a person’s name is pulled from a scan of your Gmail account. If you tap that entry you see the search results with that name from LinkedIn and Google, as well as the most recent email you received from that person.
Other things that reQall Rover provides is your next appointment in Google Calendar, displays any action items it identifies from email received in your Gmail account during the last 24 hours, the most recent status update in your Facebook newsfeed, any To-Dos from reQall, the current weather, and what is trending on Twitter.
What is really cool is that reQall Rover uses text-to-speech to provide a spoken summary of the Hear and Now information. You can play the voice summary on demand at any time or you can configure reQall Rover to provide the spoken summary automatically at specific times during the day.
Speaking of the voice capabilities, another function of reQall Rover is a voice search capability called Voice Answers. A number of pre-defined voice queries are provided, and you have the ability to define your own voice queries. Each of the voice queries are associated with a specific web site or service, so for example, if you ask, “what is trending in New York” the app queries Twitter and displays the trending topics associated with New York.
As you can tell, reQall Rover is a pretty powerful and useful Android app. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the same functionality as Siri, which is a virtual assistant app for the iPhone that I was really hoping to some day see made available for Android before it was bought by Apple. You will find reQall Rover in the Android Market but you will need an activation code in order to use it.