Chirp is an app that allows you to share information via sound signalling. It has recently been released for the iPhone with an Android version in the pipeline. Whilst it has received a lot of media attention and buzz I’m not feeling so chirpy about it.
How it works
Basically when you share your content, it’s uploaded to server and a short code is sent back to your phone. The received short code is encoded as sound that emits from the speaker on your phone. Any phone in the vicinity that is listening and within range of hearing the sound can decode it, get the short code and retrieve the content from the server.
What to be chirpy about…
It’s a free, novel way of sharing content wirelessly.
Why you might not be so chirpy…
1. Unwanted sound is noise – I’m one of those people who always have their phone on vibrate because I don’t believe in adding noise pollution to my local environment. We already have enough alerts, ringtones and notification sounds in our daily lives without adding another level of noise to the stack. I don’t want to be in a social environment listening to lots of bird noise.
2. You don’t have to pair but you do have to listen – one of the advantages that has been claimed is that unlike Bluetooth you don’t have to pair devices in order to share. That is true, but the receiving phone does have to have the app installed and it does have to be listening before the content is chirped. It therefore seems inevitable that some content will have to be re-chirped when a receiving device wasn’t listening at the right time, thus adding to the distress in point 1.
3. Privacy – anyone in your local environment can also listen in to your content, in the same way they can eavesdrop on your conversation. Whilst you might not mind if people overhear you talking you might mind if other people looked at the photos or other content you were sharing amongst your friends. The distinct chirping noise is a signal to nosey people in the vicinity that there are people near them using Chirp and to start listening on their device to snoop on what you’re doing.
4. You need a data connection on both the receiving and sending devices in order for it to work. Unlike bluetooth which can transmit files locally without any internet connection, Chirp needs to communicate with a server to store the content and provide a short code for the content you are going to Chirp.
5. If you are in really loud environment it won’t work – the louder the background noise the closer the devices will have to be. If you can’t hear the chirp, most likely the receiving phone won’t be able to hear it either.
6. Marketing chirps – in the same way that marketing now uses QR codes which I don’t have a problem with, the fear is that they will use Chirps to broadcast special offers and discounts over public address systems etc. Whilst this might be a nice idea in theory I am probably going to refer back to point 1 and say that for myself and probably many others 2 second birdsong repeated at regular intervals would constitute noise.
It’s a nice idea and a creative use of sound signalling but it should only be used where you won’t annoy other people and for content that doesn’t need to be private.