Bubble Motion is a texting (SMS) service that eliminates the need to type out message on that tiny keypad, and lets you leave voice message instead.
Many of us are texting, but we aren’t leaving voice messages via SMS — because carriers aren’t letting us.
Bubble Motion, of Singapore, wants to change that, and is negotiating with U.S carriers to provide the service here. Leaving a voice message is convenient. There are many times I’m feeling asocial, for example, and would much prefer to leave a voice message for someone without risking actually talking with them.
Sequoia Capital invested $10 million into the company in September. Chief executive Sunil Coushik has moved to an office here in Silicon Valley (Mountain View, Calif.), to nurture relationships with carriers here. The core development team remains in Singapore.
A bunch of companies have emerged to let you leave a voice message for people without the risk of having to talk with them. Players like Jott, Jangl and Core Mobility all let you leave voice messages in someone’s email inbox, and some of these and others such as Pinger, let you leave a voice message in someone’s voice-mail box. But most of these do not work with carriers — which means you need to download a software to your phone, something most people can’t be bothered doing. Silicon Valley’s Core Mobility is the only other company we’re aware of that offers voice messages via SMS (see VentureBeat column by Core Mobility’s Konstantin Othmer). Core Mobility offers the service on Sprint, but not on smart-phones — but for some reason we haven’t heard much about it.
Meanwhile, Bubble Motion operates in Singapore, Egypt, Malaysia and India — and can transmit its messages to people outside of the carrier’s own network, interconnecting in 40 countries. However, the carriers in the U.S. are tough nuts to crack — and so there’s no service here yet.
Here’s how it works: A sender presses the star key on their phone, and then the mobile number of their intended recipient. Then they hear a bubble sound, which is the prompt to record a message. They hit send, and Bubble Motion sends the message. The recipient’s phone doesn’t ring; rather, they are alerted with a normal SMS beep, and they can retrieve the voice message by clicking on a link. They can hit another button to reply.
It is being used by 15 percent of subscribers of Vodafone in Egypt, and that carrier says Bubble Motion has improved average revenue per user by 1.5 percent.
SMS is now a $50 billion business worldwide, according to Coushik, who developed the technology in Bangalore with a partner more than two years ago. While voice SMS, which he calls “bubble talk,” makes a up a tiny portion of that market, carriers are telling him it looks set to be among their top five applications (after straight voice, SMS, ring tones).
Coushik wouldn’t provide any exact numbers, either of users or of revenues.
We’re undecided. Is voice SMS really a killer app in the making, or it is a marginal service that will be just one of many tools in our 21st century communications kit? We won’t know, until it’s easier to find and use — and hopefully Bubble Motion can bring it on.