Archive for June, 2010
Product Reviewed: Tawkon (www.tawkon.com) version 1.0.1 tested on a BlackBerry 9700 (Onyx).
The upshot: While documentation and online help for purchasing and troubleshooting are still sketchy, Tawkon is a remarkable application, and comes as close as I’ve ever seen to achieving the Holy Grail of “Set It and Forget It” as any application out there. Tawkon should be considered a vital utility for every mobile phone.
Tawkon describes itself as “a mobile phone application that gives users information and tools to avoid mobile phone radiation as much as possible, with minimal disruption to normal phone usage.”
Go back and read that sentence again. There are an awful lot of promises packed into that claim:
 a software application for your mobile phone (not a hardware measuring gadget);  delivery of information about your phone’s radiation emissions from its various radios;  tools to help you minimize exposure to cell radiation; and  a usable interface that lets you get on with your calls.
Does Tawkon deliver?
[Disclaimer: After some initial difficulties purchasing and activating the application, Tawkon provided me with the application and asked me to test and review it.]
I’ve been using Tawkon for a week on a BlackBerry 9700 (Onyx). Navigating to the Tawkon website [http://www.tawkon.com/m] on my phone’s web browser, I clicked the big green PayPal button. This took a leap of faith, actually, since no price was noted (Tawkon costs $9.99) and I associate big buttons like that with “one-click” purchases. I clicked anyway. Much to my surprise, I was taken to BlackBerry’s AppWorld and the message “This application is not available on your device or for your carrier.” Hm.
I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just closed the browser and gave up.
Within hours, and much to my surprise, I received a classy email from Tawkon, thanking me for my interest and asking about my experience downloading and using the application. This was a first for me, and tipped me off to the fact that the Tawkon team is serious — really serious — about getting the user experience absolutely right, every step of the way.
Who could resist a letter starting, “As a young start up, we’re eager for constructive feedback…”? I wrote back: “Today I finally got my AT&T Blackberry 9700 working with my Orange (Israel) SIM. Tried to download Tawkon, and got a message that it’s not compatible with my phone or my operator. Don’t know which. So, I’m disappointed.”
Four hours later, I got a personal email reply from a real person — one of the company’s founders. After some troubleshooting, he explained that the problem was that I had chosen to purchase via PayPal, which meant purchasing through BlackBerry’s App World store, which is not supported in Israel (who knew?). Instead, I needed to click the other green button, and opt to pay using my credit card via the Mobihand store. Purchasing via Mobihand was indeed quick and easy.
Obviously, this gateway to purchase is confusing and difficult to use, and Tawkon will have to make sure that customers see only relevant buying options, or they will lose many bewildered customers along the way…
…which would be a pity. Because once the aches and pains of getting to the right web page to purchase Tawkon were over, and once the application was installed (important — and undocumented — note: you need to restart your BlackBerry after installation in order for Tawkon to launch properly! You can tell if it’s working by checking for the Tawkon mini-icon in the top margin of the BlackBerry home screen), everything went as smooth as silk.Tawkon has done this application right. They have obviously put a lot of thought into making the application function seamlessly, so much so that it’s hard to believe this is just a first release. Once they cross a few T’s and dot a few I’s, you’ll never guess this is a start-up. Tawkon feels like a mature mobile app from an experienced first-tier company.
I launched Tawkon from the Downloads folder on my BlackBerry, and was taken directly to a Tawkon Prediction screen that scanned my system and reassured me that my phone’s radiation levels were low. The Real-Time Radiation Indication Bar is liquid mercury; it’s so sensuous and fluid you’ll want to walk around mapping your radiation environment just for the pleasure of making the colors flow.
Keeping that screen open, I placed a call from my cell phone to my landline and took a tour of my home. (When you’re not on a call, Tawkon scans using a “Prediction Mode”. When you’re on a call, Tawkon goes into “Call Monitoring Mode”.) The results? My home and office are in good shape, although I won’t be making any calls from the bathroom. It’s just as well.
In fact, you don’t even have to open the Tawkon application to see your phone’s emission status. That little mini-icon on the home screen changes color from green to yellow to red to cue you in, say, before you even make a phone call.
Where Tawkon really shines is when you’re on the move. Most of the time, I never even noticed that Tawkon was there, running automatically in the background. But when I answered a call sitting in a mall café — bzzz. I walked into an elevator while deep in discussion — bzzz. My phone vibrated and a message appeared on the screen, an alert from Tawkon that my phone was emitting high levels of radiation. I switched to a bluetooth headset or the built-in speakerphone and was pleased to see that Tawkon registered the change and let me know that it was helping. Tawkon also records the emission patterns during calls, letting you go back to review your call history to see how much you were exposed to — or avoided exposure to.
How the heck does Tawkon work? Tawkon says it monitors and analyzes your mobile phone radiation as a function of three key parameters: your phone’s specific absorption rate (SAR) – different for each phone model; environmental conditions – rural versus urban area, mobility, and distance from a cellular base station, terrain, etc.; and personal phone usage – the way the user holds the phone, distance from the user’s head or body, etc.
How reliable is Tawkon’s feedback? I’ll have to leave it to someone with a lab equipped to independently check Tawkon’s results against their own measurements. (Tawkon claims to have tested its results in collaboration with In4Tel, a strategic partner.) What I can say is that the feedback makes sense. Tawkon buzzed me in places where my phone would be expected to boost its power to get a signal — in elevators, enclosed stairwells and basements.
What is the impact on battery life? I don’t know how to gauge that, but I would expect it to be minimal, since Tawkon is a software solution. I spent a day at a convention and used my BlackBerry heavily all day for email, some long calls, Bluetooth radio on (WiFi was off), taking pictures of slides and constant Twittering during panels and sessions, and still had plenty of battery life left at the end of the day even though Tawkon was running in the background.
How does Tawkon know what it knows? Beats me, but I feel a lot better with Tawkon installed. You can read up on WHO’s most recent findings regarding cell phone emission risks here. I set out to purchase Tawkon because I wanted to feel some sense of control over my mobile risk:reward ratio.
The upshot: While documentation and online help for purchasing and troubleshooting are still sketchy, Tawkon is a remarkable application, and comes as close as I’ve ever seen to achieving the Holy Grail of “Set It and Forget It” as any application out there. With the risks of cell phone emissions still unclear, Tawkon should be considered a vital utility for every mobile phone.
Tawkon is a keeper. It’s earned a home on my phone.
- “Set it and forget it” convenience
- Gorgeous interface
- Responsive, helpful customer service straight from the development team.
- Provides valuable information about what’s going on in your hand and near your head.
- Instructions are not part of the application (you can find information in videos posted at Tawkon.com and on YouTube here and here, but it’s up to you to find them).
- Purchasing process become confusing if you’re outside the BlackBerry App World zone. (I guess it’s an “App Region”, not an “App World”, yet.)