Long gone are the days when traditional landline phones would identify an incoming caller. In today's world of iPhones, Androids, and other mobile devices, anonymous callers and unknown numbers are now as ubiquitous as smartphone apps and Ryan Seacrest.
But a new app out Wednesday from WhitePages promises to become the caller ID for the mobile and social era. The 15-year-old company, originally started as an online directory for contact information, has launched a new service called Current Caller ID that gives users more context around incoming calls and texts. By tapping into WhitePages' expansive database of 200 million U.S. adults and dataset of 2 billion annual searches, the new app not only identifies the callers hidden behind unknown numbers but also provides deep social and local information too.
"We want to enhance communication by providing richer context," says WhitePages CEO Alex Algard. "Now when you pick up the phone or get a text message, you already have the context for the person who is trying to reach you."
Think of the service as the Highlight or Rapportive for caller ID. The app runs quietly in the background listening for incoming calls or texts. When a number not listed in your address book dials your phone, the app immediately responds to deliver the caller's name and social connections. Current Caller ID will display data and recent status updates from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn; it will even provide local news and weather based on the incoming call's location.
So now, for example, when your friend calls with the recent Facebook message of "today is moving day," you'll certainly know not to pick up for fear of incurring back pain and ZipCar charges.
The app is free but only available now for Android because the operating system allowed deeper integration with the phone's core functionality, according to WhitePages mobile products director Lori Roth. And while WhitePages has helped identify over 700 million phone calls to date, "including the majority of mobile phone numbers," Algard says, it's not necessarily the case that WhitePages will always be able to identify unknown numbers and connect them to social feeds.
But it's a step in the right direction not only for mobile contacts but for WhitePages as a company. By trying to move beyond a traditional phone number directory—a system long seen as outmoded in the digital world of Google search and Facebook contacts—WhitePages is attempting to tap into mobile, social, and local data to be seen as relevant.
Based on the reception to services like Highlight and Rapportive, Current Caller ID has more than a fighting chance for success.
[Image: Rob Bouwman via Shutterstock]