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Introducing Sonar – A No-Nonsense Mobile Interface Karishma Sundaram | , 10:21 a.m. Feb. 26, 2009 2009-02-26

Mobile phones are getting more and more complex, and as a result more complicated to use. Whether this is a positive or negative depends squarely on the user of course, but if there was a way to use all the features of a mobile phone and integrate it easily and seamlessly with online presences that would prove to be the best option, right?

Maybe that is the case. Cutting through all the complexity, and keeping the mobile phone for just three main functions: making and receiving calls, sending and receiving messages, and integrating all online social accounts into one manageable area. Sounds a trifle hopeful, but maybe that is what Sonar has achieved. 

Sonar really doesn’t fit into any particular category, in that it sits atop the mobile operating system, yet uses very little of its functionality. It might be a cross between a user interface and an operating system, perhaps. 

What Sonar sets out, and achieves, to do is cut away the multiple layered menus that have become a norm in mobile handsets. The interface is incredibly simple, with just four icons on the home screen. There are no menus whatsoever. The four icons are: call, contacts, messaging and widgets. The first three are self-explanatory, however everything other function is classified under widgets. 

Widgets cover a really broad spectrum of functions, like news, weather and Twitter, among many others. However, there is one important distinction – widgets mainly have to do with online or Internet-based activities. For example, Twitter, the online social microblogging platform, has its own widget. So does the user’s Facebook page, and ditto for LinkedIn. The user is able to access and manipulate these accounts from that particular. 

Of course, the extent to which the user can control their accounts from the widget is very dependent on the widget in question. 

Another interesting facet of Sonar is its ability to control all the phone’s functions from the web interface. Each user has an online account which seems to contain every jot of information on the phone. In fact, it is exactly the reverse; the phone simply mirrors what is on the online account. For instance, the order of the widgets can be changed through this web interface. This functionality has been added to eliminate the need of learning a new system residing on the phone. It is much easier to conduct these changes on a website. The website then pushes this information down to the phone, and the changes are immediately visible.

This then begs the obvious question: does a user have to go online every time they need to adjust the volume on their phone? That remains to be seen.

The web interface itself is extraordinarily dynamic, and can be programmed to retrieve information from all online accounts to reflect in one large, comprehensive data store. For example, contacts from email accounts, Facebook profiles, LinkedIn profiles and the actual mobile phone can be reflected in one place, making it easier to retrieve contact details without having to trawl through each of them separately. 

Sonar is still in private Beta testing, and it was showcased to Engadget at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Check out their homepage here, and the Engadget article here.

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