Yesterday, July 6, 2008 was probably notable for one of those rare occasions in sports history – such as when Ateneo actually manages to beat La Salle in a UAAP basketball game (having had 16 years of formal Jesuit schooling myself, I know that of which I speak). But apart from that unusual event, July 6 was also the auspicious day that SMART Communications had chosen to launch its new mobile messaging product, “Uzzap“, and roll it out under the Smart Buddy brand. The TV commercial aired, the print ad hit the presses, the billboards were rolled out, and the website (currently located at Uzzap.com) went online.
Uzzap, as you can find out from the aforementioned media, is a mobile “messenger” – it allows you take the PC instant messaging experience with you on your mobile phone. That includes the usual amenities such as Instant Messaging (IM) and e-mail. But wait, there’s more (drumroll puh-leaze). Everyone knows the #1 mobile messaging application remains SMS. So Uzzap builds in IM-to-SMS and SMS-to-IM integration in a uniquely seamless manner. All that, and a chatroom area to boot, for those of you who still find the rambunctious experience of live mobile anonymous chat appealing.
It’s a mobile internet app, so naturally, you need a phone that can handle GPRS/EDGE/3G/HSDPA and whatnot. On the Smart network that is, or any of Smart’s roaming partners.
The service is being offered to the public for a free trial period from July 6 to July 20. Yup, and that includes the mobile internet connection to the Uzzap server. Free, as in Libre.
Insert pinoy TV commercial voiceover style here: “So anong hinhintay niyo, download na at Uzzap na tayooohhhhh”
And so that should end right there. Not!
Based on blogs and forum comments that managed to pick up the story so far, there’s an odd confusion among the local technocrati as to what the product actually is and what it does. Maybe it’s because the Smart Buddy “me na me”, “d2 na u?”, and “uzzap na me” theme likes to keep things simple for the me na me generation. As far as the message goes, downland na u to your fone and connect na u to all ur buddies. Happy na me!
Well that’s all and well and good, but there’s a great deal to the product that meets the eye that just needs to be put out there. So in a series of blog posts, I’ll try to unravel some of the layers of this application and service.
For those of you who want to dive straight into the nitty gritty, Smart provides a user manual for downloading in PDF format, right here.
Start Me Up
Let’s start off with what the application is. It’s an internet app available in five different clients. For the mobile version, it’s available as a native Symbian app for Nokia Series 60 2nd edition and Nokia Series 60 3rd edition. The Symbian clients are the most feature-rich (Sorry Sony Ericsson UIQ fans, no UIQ client as of this time). For all other phones – there’s a J2ME client with slightly lesser features.
Someone had Twittered me about Windows Mobile support (a certain Abet dela Cruz I believe!). As long as the Windows Mobile handset can run J2ME, it should be ok (I’ve seen it working on an O2 Atom).
For PCs, there are two versions – a Windows version (XP/Vista) and a Linux version that supports Ubuntu, Kanotix, Mepis, and Debian variants. No Mac OS X right now, but the Mac fanboys can always install Windows or Linux through VM Ware or Parallels if they really want to run this baby.
You can find out the download link by sending a text message with just the keyword UZZAP in it to access code 7272. (That’s for free, by the way) That returns the download link (currently at http://uzzap.com/download). You can click on the hyperlink if your phone supports this, or just fire up your mobile browser and go straight to that URL.
Connecting straight to the download link will have the download server detect what device you’re connecting from and will try to push the version most appropriate to your device and operating system. PCs download the EXE installer, S60 downloads the sis file, and so it goes.
On J2ME handsets, your mileage will vary, mainly because of the wide variety of J2ME handsets on the market. I’d stick to the main brands before trying anything off-the-wall like that Russian handset from an Uzbekistan operator you have in your bottom drawer.
Installation involves registration, and the following are mandatory: Your name, your UserID, your password – and since this is a mobile app – your Smart mobile number. Your number will be validated during registration. It’s also a good idea to include an e-mail address if you want to advantage of the mobile-to-email and e-mail to mobile features. In addition, if you manage to forget your password, entering an e-mail address here will ensure that your password can be mailed to your e-mail address if you request it.
Buddy me, pare
After installation, Uzzap kicks in with probably one of its most unique features – “Automatic Buddy Matching,” a feature found only in the Nokia Series 60 versions. This features goes through your contacts directory and tries to find out which of your contacts are already registered as Uzzap buddies (by matching the mobile numbers with the numbers in the member database). You get to confirm which of these Uzzap users would you like to be added as your buddies. These buddy candidates in turn need to confirm the invite. Don’t want to add your ex? No problem.
What is this EM of which you speak?
Here is where the meat of the Uzzap messaging style comes in to play. You may be wondering about that big “EM” logo in the main menu. EM stands for Extended Messaging. As a term, “Instant Messaging” or IM is a little anemic compared to the mobile messaging options available in Uzzap. So throughout the Uzzap universe (the “Uzzapsphere”?) messages are often referred to as “EMs”.
Extended Messaging allows you to do any of the following with your Uzzap buddies:
- Send E-mail (assuming they have a registered e-mail address)
- Make a GSM call
- Send an SMS-R (Uzzap’s term for SMS sent through their messaging server)
- Send your Contacts List to a buddy
- Start a Conference (involving two or more Uzzap buddies)
Now here’s the thing. If you send an e-mail or an SMS-R from Uzzap, when your contact replies, the message should pop up in the Uzzap client.
Considering that Uzzap is also available as a PC-based Internet application, the whole gamut of possibilities emerges. PC-to-Mobile, Mobile-to-PC, SMS-to-EM, EM-to-Email, Email-to-mobile, etc etc etc.
In future posts, we’ll peel away the layers of this app and take a look at other Uzzap features. I’d write more now, but to quote the immortal words of the comedian Henny Youngman, “I just flew in, and boy my arms are tired.”
Note: For some reason, Uzzap users have started to use this post as some sort of a support board for their questions about the service. Please contact the Uzzap team at Uzzap.com instead.
Or you can also use the Uzzap forum at Sandbox – check out http://www.mysandbox.com and look for this in the forum area.
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