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Mobile developers wave “goodbye” to metered minutes

Say Goodbye to Metered Minutes!!For the past 100 or so years, we have been paying for every minute spent on our phones. Metered minutes for voice have long been the standard for growth of telecoms the world over.

Early purveyors of VoIP (Voice over IP) promised great things and many have built respectable businesses. Still, we hang onto the networks of old (PSTN) which come with baggage and metered minutes remain.

We are in a “mobile first” world now, where mobile messenger applications reign supreme eg. WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat etc. For good or for bad, these new chat apps are forever changing the way we think of communications. The next generation expects a certain level of service that comes for free, and that will become the new norm.

This new “free mobile communication” mantra can come at a price for providers.

Traditional VoIP networks are primarily built using client-server methodologies, which means the calls (signalling at least) and text messages pass through a server. That server must be hosted somewhere and that data transfer cost must be accounted for, somehow. More and more chat apps are supporting Voice and Video calls, the overhead involved in providing for those features on the back end is not trivial.

If there were a way to provide these features without having the calls and messages go through a server, it should be much cheaper (or free) to deliver those features to the users. P2P (peer to peer) communication services allow providers to cut costs and deliver rich communication features more affordably. We know this to be true because we have built countless VoIP networks on traditional client-server technology and also with P2P technology, in this case Open Peer.

Keep in mind a P2P-centric network does not take into consideration interoperability with the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network), so that I can call my mom and dad for instance.  From a smartphone users perspective, this is not much of a problem. Data / wifi networks are nearly boundless.  Just ask yourself “When was the last time you weren’t connected?” As a provider, the moment we bridge P2P with PSTN, we increase our costs enormously and lose all the rich features in the process.

Is there a way we get the benefits of P2P and still interoperate with the networks of yesterday?

If you want the real benefits that a Peer-to-Peer communications network will provide, you must get past the idea of interop with the PSTN. There are plenty of providers out there who refuse or simply cannot make the move to P2P due to their business model or the like and to you I say, “Very sorry for your troubles”.

The middle ground.

Leveraging P2P in your network where it makes sense (mobile) and using gateways to negotiate to the PSTN is certainly possible and we have helped network providers do just that. This helps them to prepare for an OTT (Over The Top) model that is more P2P centric and efficient while still servicing their customer of old.

When will metered minutes truly become a thing of the past? When the carriers wake up? God help us all.

If you are a modern mobile developer working on iOS or Android, you can say “goodbye” to metered minutes today.

Hookflash for Android – Improved RTC Video Support

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We are always working hard to improve the tools we build for our developer partners and customers. Today we are happy to announce improved support for RTC (Real-time Communications) Video.

We’ve had video for a couple of weeks now but we held off on releasing it due to some lingering issues, until today. We have knocked down a few larger bugs (video and other aspects) in the last week and there are plenty more to come.  The Hookflash android reference app now has video calling capabilities as does the Hookflash / Open Peer android SDK.

 

Android reference app can be found here
iOS reference app can be found here

Developers sign up here

Improved support for Push Notifications on iOS and Android

In this update, notifications become more fluid and work across conversations on both iOS and Android.

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Real-time messaging on mobile requires “suspended application” support for notifying the user that a new message has arrived when the application is not in focus. Receiving a message as part of a conversation is not much good unless the user is aware the message exists. The push notification allows the user to understand that the message has been received when not looking at the application at the time the message arrives. This new release makes greater use of this functionality on both Android and iOS.

Android reference app can be found here.
iOS reference app can be found here.

Developers, add real-time messaging, voice and video to your app today! Sign up for free here: http://fly.hookflash.me/

Hookflash for Android

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Today we are shipping our android reference app, sdk and sdk sample app, now in alpha.

Our Hookflash SDK for Android is openly available on Github, today we are releasing a new sample app in code and a Hookflash reference app in the Play Store.

We have run preliminary tests between the iOS app in the iTunes App Store and Android app in the Play Store. Messaging & voice works well, video on iOS has been there for some time now. As you can see from the screenshot video still needs a bit of tweaking on android, as so it has been  temporarily disabled in the reference app.

We are looking forward to working with mobile developers on Android now in addition to iOS. Never has it been so easy to create a scalable mobile messenger with RTC (Real-time Communications) features that other messenger platforms would die for! So come and create something cool! Developers, join up and get started for free today!

Not a developer? No problem, we provide a white label service as well. Send us a note with your project ideas.

When will WebRTC be ready for prime time?

No matter what camp you are in, pro-SDP or Object API, WebRTC feels like it’s here to stay. The fact that there is so much push-back on an Object-centric API in the WebRTC working groups tells us that there are many who are concerned about delaying v1 any longer than is necessary, there is a feeling of urgency, which seems like a good thing.

As an application developer, one looks at the current state of WebRTC as a proposed standard and it soon becomes apparent that it is not trivial. Building a commercially viable application or service will take much more than a few JavaScript APIs leveraging the WebRTC stack in Chrome and Firefox.

WebRTC is in its early infancy, building a commercial service using WebRTC in the browser today is not only unlikely it might even be a little silly. That’s not to say that the work being done in and around WebRTC today isn’t valid, far from it. It’s just that WebRTC “in browsers” is far from being ready for any service to deploy commercially and scale.

Where are we most likely to see traction early on?

What WebRTC, or specifically Google, has given us is a great media stack that we can leverage in apps.

Mobile is where WebRTC can be put to work easily and quickly. Any iOS, android or even BB10 application developer can now make use of new mobile developer toolkits that include the WebRTC media stack plus other features like social identity federation, p2p signaling and the like. Mobile is where WebRTC technology shines today.

Building for mobile first is not just convenient it’s smart. By building on mobile ahead of the browsers the developer somewhat “future proofs” the life cycle of the product being developed. When WebRTC is ready for prime time, those mobile developers will be in a perfect position to deploy to the browser, potentially edging out their competition.

When will the browsers be ready?

It’s going to be the better part of a year (some say years) before some of the hard problems are solved in the respective WebRTC working groups and even then the v1 features supported will be somewhat minimal. Even I thought this would have been done by now, but we are a long way from done.

Questions remain unanswered:  Where is Apple? What will Microsoft do with CU-RTC-Web?  What video codec will be chosen as MTI?

Regardless of how much work there is left to do, the bureaucracy and politics inherent in the standards bodies will ensure that we will not see this in production across all major browsers anytime soon.

As an example, let’s take a look at XMPP. Before it became a standard XMPP was the Jabber protocol, an open technology used primarily for instant messaging and presence. Since Jabber was already defined and deployed heavily all across the globe you would think the standardization would go rather quickly, right? Nope. That process took more than 2 years in the IETF and very little was changed.

If you are a mobile developer looking to leverage WebRTC for a mobile project, you’re in luck! There are some good mobile SDKs available today.  You might want to hold off on deployment plans for all the major browsers anytime soon, especially not if you are focusing your efforts in the Enterprise markets where MS Windows and Internet Explorer still rule the roost.

Why not android?

Many have asked, “Why not android?”.

For us @hookflash, the answer is relatively simple, “Resources & Timing”.

Building and deploying a P2P comm offer on 1 OS is hard enough. Hookflash does not have hundreds or thousands or even dozens of engineers to build and support 80+ devices, all of which are supporting various versions of android. Very few of the most advanced android smartphones even run the most recent android operating system, likely because the carriers all want to have something that sets them apart. Sound familiar? Microsoft adopted the same mantra and now it seems, the PC is old news. RIM is also suffering. Maybe, far fewer devices and 1 OS would serve them well?

Apple via iOS on the other hand has a relatively simple perspective, “You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black.” (credit to Mr. Ford).  iOS is certainly not perfect, and “x code” is downright annoying at times, but it does allow one to focus on 1 OS and essentially 1 device, this is not the case with android or blackberry, at least not today.

-Erik Lagerway