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Point and Call, a dialing alternative for Windows Phone 8

Point and Call

Point and Call is a Windows Phone 8 app that uses your camera to read and dial phone numbers. Point and Call can come in handy for scanning numbers off business cards, print advertisements, or even computer screens.

Numbers that are scanned can be dialed from within the app or saved to your contacts. It's a nifty concept to make dialing and saving all the phone numbers you run across.

Point and Call is fairly easy to use. Just line up the printed number in between the focus brackets, focus the camera (either by tapping the screen or half-press the shutter button) and hold your Windows Phone steady.

Point and Call

In a few seconds, Point and Call will read the number and send it to the text box in the upper right corner of the screen. You can dial the number by tapping the "call" button, tap the "text" symbol to send an SMS or save it to your contacts with the "save" button.

Settings cover your Country code, turning on/off the camera light, and other settings to enhance the camera scan. You do have a slider to offset the background threshold of the image to make the number easier to read.

In just tinkering with Point and Call for a short time, it performed rather nicely. Numbers on printed paper scanned rather quickly but numbers on the computer screen took a little longer.

There is a free trial version for Point and Call that has some limitations. The full version is currently running $.99 and you can find it here in the Windows Phone Store.

QR: Point and Call

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Comments

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marantaz says:

I'm cheap. For .99, I'll key the numbers in myself, as I have enough time to turn on the camera point it at the number and wait for it to scan.

Also available for 7.x BTW. ;)
I find this app very interesting and I actually will be trying this out. It's really clever.

Hi. Let me now did you liked and what was you phone model. In version 3.0 there is special LED torch and continuous focus mode (no need to half-press camera button or tap screen). Focus is working like shooting video. This special extension is not any more available to WP8. However it is not so much tested, only with my dev phone Lumia 800.  Today I planned to test it with other WP7 device also but did not have time. Well, Microsoft have tested basic functionality with HTC HD7, LG Optimus 7, Nokia Lumia 610, Nokia Lumia 800, Nokia Lumia 900 and Samsung Focus Flash.
-Developer of Point and Call

ICwater says:

Doesn't read numbers from a monitor very well. Even though the number is clearly seen within the brackets the OCR scan at the bottom is all distorted.
HTC 8x.
 

RyanAMG says:

I'm in my car and it reads the phonebook from my navigation screen also 8X. It did work better after purchasing or maybe I started to understand how it works :)

ICwater says:

thanks for the info. I will play around with it more.. always wanted an app like this, so if it works for everything else, the screen really isn't that important.. sides of moving vehicles and road signs are..
 

Yes, I noticed this annoying problem when I developed separated version to WP8. So this problem only concerns WP8 devices. At right distance you can still scan from monitor without problem. By the way, this same problem can be seen in image when using normal camera mode in WP8. I do not know is there difference between phone models. What is your phone model? I have tested it with Lumia 920.

In any way, if I find solution to this problem, I publish update.

-Developer of Point and Call

RyanAMG says:

I have a HTC 8X but will have the L928 as soon as Verizon will take my money. It would be nice to access from camera and hit lenses to use.

Yes, I noticed this annoying problem when I developed separated version to WP8. So this problem only concerns WP8 devices. At right distance you can still scan from monitor without problem. By the way, this same problem can be seen in image when using normal camera mode in WP8. I don't know is there difference between phone models. What is your phone model? I have tested it with Lumia 920.
In any way, if I find solution to this problem, I publish update.
-Developer of Point and Call

RyanAMG says:

It would be nice to access from camera so I don't need on start screen.

 
Thanks for tip. I put his to TODO list. Probably apps in category photo goes automatically to camera apps list in WP8, but Point and Call category is  tools + productivity. So if I don't want to change category is not necessarily so easy to do but I figure this out.
-Developer of Point and Call
 

Clesanbar says:

Maybe yo can add lenses functinality
 

Yes, this is the right solution. Will be included to next update.

I can't say that focusing the camera on a number is any easier than simply pressing 7 buttons.

lin0x says:

I may well as dial the number instead of opening the app, waiting for it to recognize and then call. it just seems lazy.

onysi says:

or u can just hold home button and say "call -- #####"

tah1973 says:

I can't see it's usefulness for entering phone numbers as part of contact info. You would still have to enter name, email, etc. It's just as easy to start the process manually.

cesar ruiz1 says:

Just use Bing vision, scan # copy # paste in dialer. Not that I'm cheap but there some apps not really worth paying.

Actually I have two five star reviews where it is suggested that Point and Call should be integrated to Bing Vision. Using current implementation of Bing Vision to calling, is very slow and if there is spaces in phone number you have to add numbers together before copy pasting.
-Developer of Point and Call

bradbamford says:

Would be nice as a camera lens... Otherwise it takes too much time to lookup the app.

Thanks for tip. Will be included to next update.

-Developer of Point and Call

Theevenger says:

Solid app concept but there are a few problems (HTC 8X).  3/5

First, in the options menu the left/right on/off sliders will swipe you left and right while you toggle them.  Minor, but annoying.  I would have taken a star off for this due to lack of polish.

The main functionality of the app is an inconsistent performer.  I was not able to reliably save myself time with this app.  Even with handwriting recognition on, I could only get one number to read and not consistently.  I could not get a number from a computer screen to read.

One suggestion I have is to allow us to drag the brackets apart further.  Sometimes text on the page is very big and it is awkward to have to move my phone a foot away from the page.

All in all this is a very promising app, and with updates it could be very useful.  Presently it is little more than a proof of concept.  Early adopters should steer clear until it has matured some more.  I for one will be watching this app with great interest.  Once it is improved, I could see myself using this daily.
 
Note: I was unable to post this review on the actual store.  The process failed from the app, from the app list "rate+review" and my review failed to post on the website as well.  Not sure what's up.

Thanks for many detailed notes.

1. left/right on/off sliders:

This is basic functionality Microsoft components used in Point and Call. Making 'custom component/solution' is not necessarily wise (can lead to other problems), but I study what I can do. I understand that it can be annoying especially if you accidentally change setting. Hmm, is the problem when you want go to 'Info' page or when you want to toggle setting? Best way to toggle ToggleSwitch is by tapping, not by swiping. Hmm, I can remember that when I first started with WP I also swiped toggle buttons, but better and faster way is just to tap.

2. Recognition with handwriting recognition on

There is info about every setting in info page. handwritten digits recognition:

When this is set to on, handwritten phone numbers can be recognized. However, handwriting must be quite clear. The recognition process is about three times slower when recognizing handwritten digits. Settings 'Use filtering letters off' cannot be used at same time as handwritten recognition. This should not be set to on if printed digits are read because digits like '1' are not recognized.

Yes, I know you did not notice this. I add message box to warn at least when user first time sets this on.

To read printed phone number with clear common font should not take many seconds or there is some problem. I have one HTC 8X five star review so your phone model cannot be problem.

About focus brackets:
To version 2.0 I did hard work making recognition process more advanced. One of the feature I added was 'Use filtering letters off' functionality which can be used when there is some letters next to phone number. Too many letters cannot be filtered away (PaC cannot really read letters - Maybe in future). See Point and Call screenshot 3. However this feature is not what you were talking. Your suggestion is very good and will be included at least to next major update. Thanks!

Your review is visible now. Did you send it again? When you press rate button in Point and Call, you are transferred to Windows Phone Store and are not any more in application domain. Probably there have been just too much traffic in store.

Another question. When you tested reading phone numbers, did you use also "wild tests"? What I mean, were there also nonexisting phone numbers which area codes were not real? The reason why I am asking this, is because when setting "Use calling codes to aid identification" is set to on (this is default), it means that  "When Point and Call identifies unclear phone number, it uses existing country and area codes as help. For example if phone number's country code is identified as +558, this code does not exist and closest match is +258 or +358." Also if home country is set to USA or Canada, phone number like "123456" cannot be recognized correctly, because Point and Call knows there is not area code like "123" among North American Telephone Area Codes and tries to find closest match.
Also minimum length of phone number that Point and Call accept to be recognized is 5 digits.
Now there seems to be problem in USA that peole testing Point and Call are doing these wild tests and of course with bad results which leads to bad results.  Maybe I have to just make fast update to set "Use calling codes to aid identification" as a default to off.
-Developer of Point and Call
 

Theevenger says:

I was using a valid phone number for all of my tests.
 
Also, the change log for the update today looked really good, but after applying the update, my app loads to a black screen that has the brackets and then crashes.  :(

This is bad. Please, try to reboot your phone and try again. And note me how it went. You can send me also email. I don't have HTC 8X so I can't test this myself. Sorry about this. I don't know for sure, but it seems that your camera has went to a bad state. Have you ever got green screen while using phone's camera? Preview resolution is changed to smaller to get more speed and it helps also a lot when reading from monitor. I tried change it back and result was bad (Lumia 920). Reading is so bad, that's not the solution. This need to get working. Used Preview resolution is what device returns. So the problem is in device drivers or the way SetPreviewResolutionAsync method is implemented. There can be problems also with other models. I got this kind of errors also in early development state and there is discussion in microsoft forum about these problems. But no solution.

I probably found the reason. It is HTC specific problem. In Microsoft forum other developers tell about having same kind of problems. When getting supported resolutions, the phone returns values such as 320x240 for the back camera, but with that resolution, app just terminates. This is bug in Camera API. Probably solution is to set it to 640x480 instead when device model is HTC. But this is not sure before testing. One update is already in sertificarion pipeline and is probably accepted on Friday or Saturday. After this I publish new update to fix this HTC specific problem. But the update is not available until next week. 

UPDATE: I cancelled pending update and made new one, because this error is so critical to HTC users. New update is probably available on Monday.

 

V 3.1.1 published:
- HTC launch error fix
- Small adjustment to default threshold to monitor 

Damn why didn't I think of making this app...

Giddora says:

MS really should add a "lense"-button to the Bing Search-"app" that pops up when you click the magnifying glass.

 

Version 3.1 published:

+ Lens app functionality

+ Added button to set default threshold to paper/monitor to improve reading from monitor

- Faster recognition

- Better background separation

- Changed setting "Use calling codes to aid identification" default value to false if user is from USA or Canada, to prevent failure when reading numbers with non existing area codes.

 

 

V 3.1.1 published:
- HTC launch error fix
- Small adjustment to default monitor threshold value. This threshold value is not so important anymore, because background separation is no better when reading from monitor. So, usually there is no reason to change threshold value.