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Small Call (for Android) review

Software & AppsReviews
3/10
by Samara Lynn, 21 Jan 2013Reviews
Small Call (for Android) review

Small Call is an Android app designed to minimise interruption on whatever you are running on Android when you receieve a call or text – a good idea because this can be a problem. However, Small Call doesn’t really provide any benefit over the native Android OS capabilities in this respect. The app is similar in function to the iPhone's built-in Do Not Disturb feature.

I use my Android phone – and I use it a lot. It's my gym workout companion, my main music listening device, my secondary gaming platform, and it helps me with reviews. I use a stopwatch app to time tests like file copying, or how long it takes to install a software product. It's annoying to have the stopwatch app interrupted because of a badly timed text, call, or IM I receive when I’m in the middle of a test and I’ve forgotten to put the phone in airplane mode.

Perhaps you, too, find it bothersome to get interrupted in the middle of streaming music or some video. If so, you'd be interested in an app like Small Call (£0.61 on Google Play). The app's blurb states that it "allows you to continue what you are doing with minimal interruption." So how does it work in practice? Sadly, it isn’t so great.

Configuration

After installing and launching the app, you're presented with a couple of settings choices. A toggle slide switch lets you enable or disable Small Call. You can also adjust the opacity of a pop-up menu that the app displays – that is, the amount of contrast between the menu's icons and the background.

There are a few ways in which Small Call can prevent calls and texts from interrupting the main task you're in the middle of with your device. For incoming calls, you can choose to simply reject the call with no further action, send the call to voicemail, or pick up and then hang up on the caller – a rather extreme reaction. These actions are performed via a pop-up overlay that Small Call displays when a call or text is received.

You can also opt to use Small Call to handle incoming texts. When you receive a text, the Small Call pop-up overlay will show you the message, who the message is from, and let you ignore it or shoot an automatic text back. The default text message to send is set as "Can't talk now, what's up?" which encourages the person contacting you to text you again, further disturbing you when you don't want to be interrupted in the first place. Fortunately, you can set a custom message of up to 250 characters.

Performance

I tested Small Call with three apps running: A game called Stand O’ Food 3, Spotify, and a stopwatch app. I also tested writing a text message while getting an incoming call with Small Call enabled.

With Small Call enabled and the Stand O’ Food game running, the app crashed on me. I had to force close it. I still received the default Android OS incoming call screen and was able to ignore or answer the phone. As was always the case before I installed Small Call, my game was interrupted and I had to re-launch it after dealing with the call, so the app did not help with interruptions of this game.

Next I ran a critical stopwatch app I use to test device performance with Small Call enabled. While the stopwatch app was running, I received an incoming call, at which point I saw the Small Call pop-up overlay message prompting me to ignore, send a text, or hang up on the caller. But underneath this Small Call pop-up I still saw Android's default incoming screen allowing me to answer or ignore. My stopwatch app kept running without interruption – with Small Call enabled or disabled. So, unless I wanted to send a text message to a caller with my stopwatch app running, Small Call didn't provide me much benefit over my phone's default incoming call screen with my stopwatch app.

With Spotify streaming music and Small Call enabled, I did not even see the Small Call pop-up screen, only the Android default incoming call screen. Enabling Small Call made no difference while using Spotify.

Next, I tested what happens when I'm in the middle of writing a text message and the phone rings. This is one of the most annoying interruptions with an Android phone, because you are almost always guaranteed to lose your place in typing the message (although my phone does a good job of saving a draft message instantly).

When I received an inbound call in the middle of typing a text, the Small Call pop-up overlay appeared, and I was able to ignore the call and send it to voicemail. The message I was typing closed, and for some reason an older text I received the day before opened up. Small Call actually made the text message recovery more clumsy than usual!

Finally, when I actually chose to answer an inbound call using the Small Call menu Answer icon, Small Call crashed. I double-checked to make sure this wasn't a compatibility issue with my relatively older phone running Android 2.3.4, but the documentation in Google Play states the app will work with Android 2.2 and up.

Verdict

The idea behind Small Call has merit, because when you're running a lot of apps in Android, interruptions from incoming calls and texts are truly annoying. However, this app did not provide any real benefit over my phone's native call handling. Also, it would be better if you could tell Small Call to intercept texts and calls only when apps you specify are running, rather than handling all calls and texts when it's enabled.

Small Call does offer a benefit if, for example, you're in a meeting and you want to auto-send a text to callers telling them your status and that you will call them later. But I can already do that within Android's native settings, anyway. Small Call needs to bring a lot more functionality to the table, and the instability issues need to be sorted out, before I can recommend forking out even 60 pence for it.

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