Sign -- A quick tap and gesture on your home screen is all it takes to call someone


Nov 12, 2009
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Here's the AppBrain page for the Lite version of Sign (you can use it for up to three people): Sign Lite - Android app on AppBrain

And here's the AppBrain page for the full version: Sign - Android app on AppBrain

There's been some discussion about Sign in this thread:

Note that at least for now, it only works with Google contacts synced to your phone.

But it seems like it makes sense for it to have a dedicated thread. When I read about it in the thread I linked above, I wasn't really sure what advantage it had over all the other dialing methods available in Android. But it sounded intriguing, and I gave it a whirl.

The thing I was most impressed with is how quick it is. Tap the homescreen widget, and the interface almost immediately pops up (just a narrow bar up top and a narrow bar on the bottom), then you draw a gesture (once you've programmed a gesture for a contact) in the space between the narrow bars (I think it's much smoother than Gesture Search -- I've never been totally happy with the gesture speed in Gesture Search).

The gesture space between the narrow bars can be set to be black, or transparent. The transparent option is very nice, and even better if you put the Sign widget on you QuickDesk screen. (The QD screen disappears, and you can make your gesture over top whatever app you had open when you called up QD).

Once the gesture has been properly made, you can configure Sign to either immediately dial the person, or pop up a dialog like Voice Search does - you do nothing, and it will call the person after a user-configurable delay, or you can tap the dialog box to either call immediately or cancel.

Two things set it apart from most other dialing methods (especially in environments where you might not want to voice dial for whatever reason). One is scalability -- it's probably easier to deal with 80 gestures than 80 direct dial shortcuts, for instance. The second is that it's much harder to accidentally dial someone since the ability to make a gesture only lasts a few seconds after activating the widget, plus you can cancel before you get to the call screen. I've been using Call Confirm to prevent accidental dialing, but more often that not, it's just been getting in the way.

Two suggestions for the Devs:

1) It would be really nice if I could have one gesture to call a certain contact, and another gesture to text that certain contact. Maybe at the top of the screen where you add gestures you could have a button for Direct Dial (all contacts with phone numbers show up) and a button for Direct Text (all contacts with mobile numbers show up), then the user could maintain one list of gestures for each action.

2) I'm sure you have your reasons for making it work only through the widget, but I'd really like if opening up the app starts up Sign just like tapping the widget does. Then I could do things like putting a shortcut to Sign in the notification bar using FolderOrganizer or make it so the camera button or a long-press on the search key brings up Sign using Button Shortcut.
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One important note about the gestures -- they're direction sensitive. So a simple horizontal line drawn left-to-right is different than the same line drawn right-to-left. This means it's pretty simple to come up with very quick gestures one-swipe gestures for your top 10-20 contacts.
One important note about the gestures -- they're direction sensitive. So a simple horizontal line drawn left-to-right is different than the same line drawn right-to-left. This means it's pretty simple to come up with very quick gestures one-swipe gestures for your top 10-20 contacts.

rjax, first, thank you very much for the review, we really appreciate it and the link to AppBrain!

The issue with Sign only working with Google contacts is known and we are working on a solution. It might be a few weeks before the programmer can implement an effective solution, but it is coming in an update in the near future. It is our primary focus at this time. If anyone has this issue and wants to be notified when the issue has been fixed, just send us an email at [email protected]. Also send us any other issues you have and we will respond quickly.

There is a temporary work around if you copy the contact information from your non-google account into your Google account contact list. After you have it moved over, Sign will always recognize it and you won't have to do that again unless you wish to add another contact. This is a temporary solution until Sign can pull that information in automatically.

I have to give the programmer all the credit for doing a good job of keeping the app lightweight so it works quickly and efficiently on every phone we've tested it on. He's really done a great job. This is our first app as a company and his first Android app as well. He's really done an incredible job.

To your suggestions, we considered several different configurations for initiating calls vs. texts and decided on simplicity for the initial release. Based on comments received, we are in the process of including the ability for the user to change the default to either call or text instead of it auto-defaulting to call as it does now. This should reduce the amount of times the user will have to change between the two, especially for heavy-texters.

We are looking at various ways to include the ability to map the gesture directly to a call or text. The primary factors we consider in implementing a feature like that is: What is the best way to keep the user interface simple and intuitive? and what are the potential impacts to the size, speed, and responsiveness of the app. Great suggestion and we are definitely looking at the best way to implement this type of functionality.

We decided on a widget because we like the concept of being able to operate and interact from the homescreen, which the widget allows with greater flexibility. This type of interaction really differentiates Android from other platforms and we wanted to maximize the feeling that the user was interacting with the phone, and not just opening an app and performing an action within the app. That being said, we really like your suggestion about being able to add it to the notification bar, or in app docks like are included in various launchers. We will look at adding that capability in the future; however, fixing the issue with non-google contacts is our current priority.

Really great suggestions, thanks.

A final thing on how the recognition works. You mention that it takes into account the direction of the stroke, which is true. It also takes into account the number of strokes if you have a multi-stroke gesture, as well as the order in which those strokes are made. Based on that, you could theoretically create 10 different gestures from the letter V.

Obviously, that's excessive, but it illustrates the flexibility of the recognition engine we developed. The Google Gesture API, which is the basis of Gesture Search, works fine for searching your phone, but was too unreliable as a dialer where a mis-recognized sign can result in accidental calls. So we took the Gesture API and incorporated it within our overall recognition system and we feel like it is much more consistent and accurate. Avoiding accidental calls was one of the primary reasons we developed Sign - it was simply too easy to accidentally hit the direct dial icons.

One of the biggest issues with gesture recognition on any platform is the fact that everyone "signs" differently, so we have tested extensively to find a recognition setting which seems to be the most effective for the most people. Now that we have released to the public, we welcome feedback from users about how effective it is at recognizing their gestures so we know if its just about right or if we should tweak it.

Thanks again for the review. We're excited about Sign and look forward to making it even better in the future. Thanks to everyone who gives it a try as well.
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Note that at least for now, it only works with Google contacts synced to your phone.
That's a major drawback for me. All my contacts are Exchange contacts.

That is our primary focus right now. The programmer is working on making it work with all contact lists. Please send us an email at [email protected] and we will let you know as soon as we issue an update which fixes that issue.

For anyone whose premium version of Sign has stopped working overnight or today, please download the updated version 1.02 in the market. The issue has been identified and corrected. Thank you very much to those people who informed us of the issue. We apologize for the inconvenience.
We just uploaded an updated version of Sign and Sign Lite to the market. The update was primarily focused on allowing Sign to sync with EAS/3rd Party contacts, and that feature has been implemented.

However, specifically to the two suggestions by rjax in his review, the user can now set the default action to either call or text, which will hopefully reduce the amount of times the user has to change it. We are still looking at an effective way to allow different Signs for different actions without making the app overly complicated for people with a lot of contacts. We'll definitely keep everyone updated on our progress.

Also, Sign now works as an app as well as a widget, so it can be added to docks!

Thanks to rjax for this review and for the suggestions. Hopefully this most recent update makes Sign even more user friendly for everyone.

Please feel free to contact us with any other comments or suggestions!