Have you ever found yourself wondering why your friend hasn't called - even though they promised - only to realize you've been sitting in the cellular equivalent of the Dead Sea for the past hour and a half? Sometimes, it just happens that the spot you decided to wait out an important call had no coverage and now, you could know that beforehand. Even better, you can look at your city's coverage before you even choose a wireless service in the first place.
According to the company, the app is "a free beta application utilizing smartphones as network monitoring devices" to help people choose which cell provider to go with. Currently, the mash-up map, which is offered on CNET, provides information on 17 different areas for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.
From the company on the specifics on the network testing:
Root Mobile conducts tests that measure signal strength, data transmission speeds, network connection failures and other performance indicators. It is noteworthy that these tests differ from data transmission speed tests conducted by others using PCs, precisely because Root Mobile is engineered to determine real-world network performance as experienced by people using smartphones - findings that for the first time objectively measure and map true, real-world performance from the perspective of the smartphone consumer. Users can choose to run a network test when they want. The application otherwise runs unnoticed in the background.
Apps for Blackberry and Android phones are already available with one for Windows Mobile phones on the way before the end of the second quarter. An iPhone app is said to be in development.
We have to wonder if differences between handsets and reception have been taken into account or have we moved beyond that? The map lets us choose between what type of reported info we would like to see, whether "Signal", "Data" or "Network", but there is no device category. We can also see the number of zones reporting "No Bars", "Access Failure" and "Hot Zones" (such as dropped calls), but no information on how many people have reported these issues. With a crowd sourced app and mash-up like this, we'd love to know if the problem is widespread or if, in reality, there's been one person who's been there and not gotten any reception. Maybe they've dropped their phone one too many times? We don't know.
Either way, it looks like a neat idea that we think we would like to compare with those carrier-provided coverage maps. Let's see if your map gets in the way of the game now, Verizon.