Israel’s Vufone brings your cell phone on-line

“It’s all about putting your data in the cloud, allowing you to access it from any device:” Rafi Ton, CEO of NewACT. The days when cell phones were just for voice communication are long gone – but for all their …

“It’s all about putting your data in the cloud, allowing you to access it from any device:” Rafi Ton, CEO of NewACT.

The days when cell phones were just for voice communication are long gone – but for all their new sophistication, cell phones have yet to make the great leap online.

That’s all set to change, though. Vufone launched last month by Yokneam-based NewACT, aims to bridge the digital gap between the cell phone and the Internet, allowing your information to flow between devices at will.

“It’s all about putting your data in the cloud, allowing you to access it from any device,” says Rafi Ton, CEO of NewACT, using the latest tech industry buzzword.

The “cloud” refers to the storage of applications and/or data on the Internet, allowing them to be accessible from anywhere. Cloud-based computing, such as on-line word processor Google Docs, allows you to access your information from any computer, regardless of platform or location, or even from handheld devices. Users have taken to these programs in a big way, and the cloud is likely to get much bigger as more people set “free” their data from a single machine and send it online.

Although cell phones do interact with the Internet, there are few cloud applications or services designed for them ? and the ones that do exist, such as Gmail, are mostly imports from the computer world.

Interacting with web sites

Vufone is one of the first to approach the cloud from the cell phone’s point of view ? with applications and services that enable you to upload data from your phone to a server, where it can then be moved to another device, as well as allowing you to interact with web sites like Facebook, Flickr and Picasa.

“Mobile users deserve mobile freedom,” Ton tells ISRAEL21c. “And freedom is the ability to manage and protect mobile content automatically, seamlessly and securely regardless of decisions about mobile operator and device selection. Achieving that is our mission and focus.”

To experience Vufone, users need to sign up at the web site, entering their phone number and phone model (Vufone is one of the few Internet connectivity programs that work with Java-based phones, as well as Symbian smart phones and iPhones). Once signed up, you can back up your contents on your Vufone account page, manage your schedule using Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar, or upload photos and videos from your phone to your account, or to other users; the system will automatically send things you upload on to Flickr, Picasa, YouTube and others. You can also download and transfer music, messages, and documents from your phone, to other destinations.

And Vufone works in the other direction as well; you can add a calendar task, contact, photo, etc. at the site, which will then be uploaded to your phone at the next sync.

NewACT has been around for several years, and it has already produced versions of the Vufone system for Motorola, and a number of cell phone companies in Israel, Europe, and other locations, as a “white label” that the companies brand as their own.

Expanded capabilities

After working for others, Ton says that Vufone is now working for itself. “We started out with a system that cell phone companies could offer to their customers as a service, backing up their contacts online,” says Ton. “But we quickly realized the power of our technology, and decided to bring out our own brand offering expanded capabilities to our users.”

Vufone remains a great way to move data off an old phone when you buy a new one, but as Ton admits, today, it’s so much more.

With 28 employees at its Yokneam R&D center, Ton says Vufone is ready for the “big time,” and NewACT intends to begin a big signup campaign next month. Users in the US will pay $1.49 a month. “Nobody wants ads hanging around their cell phone,” Ton says regarding the advertisement support model he considered, but rejected.

Until March 1, registration for the first year of service is free. It’s an “early bird special,” says Ton, a way of sharing the company’s excitement at what they expect to be one of the biggest things to hit the cell phone world in years. “We believe that the mobile market has matured and users are ready to adopt off-portal mobile services that show true benefit and value. These are exciting times for us,” says Ton.