Using smartphones as …phones.

Early outdoor phone exchange

An early outdoor phone exchange

Could it be that the way to make a telephone call on a geology site would be to use a telephone? Now we seem to have some fairly stable WiFi networking hardware, and are considering that we might ditch the awkward netbooks for our ‘Sherpas’ in the field, perhaps we could use WiFi equipped smartphones for some of our outdoor networking needs?

Since we’re using SIP, we’ll need SIP software for any mobile phones we use, and there are obvious commercial reasons why most mobile service providers aren’t keen on this, but on the up side, bluetooth headsets are designed to be used with mobile phones so this could add another useful feature to the ERA toolkit.

There are various software packages for making SIP-over-WiFi calls on smartphones, the most open platform being Google’s Android , which has an application called SIPdroid . Apple’s iPhone / iPod Touch has a number of applications, although some of them require you to jailbreak your phone in order to run unofficial software on it. Google have released a softphone for the iPhone/Touch called Siphon , which has some limitations but appears similar to SIPdroid from first look. That said, the existence of a how-to for making Siphon work with your home-brewed Asterisk server is a good sign.

A more commercial offering, which will attempt connections to Skype, MSN, twitter etc. ,and integrate your existing contacts list as well as handling SIP calls is Fring. It seems that some Touches won’t support voice calls at all, and currently no iPhone or iPod Touch can run applications in the background, so if you’re making a SIP call you won’t also be running a browser or watching a video stream.  Symbian-based phones with WiFi can apparently be nudged into making SIP calls , or can use Fring. Windows Mobile users can try X-Lite or SJPhone .

2 thoughts on “Using smartphones as …phones.

  1. Pingback: Portable VoWLAN: A portable voice over wireless local area network for mobile learning « VoWLAN

  2. Trevor Collins

    Fair comment – but the problem we usually face is the lack of mobile phone coverage in geology fieldsites. Typically we’re up mountains or at the bottom of cliffs and the mobile phone network just doesn’t reach us.

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