LogMeIn previewed a new version of its remote control tool, Rescue+Mobile, for Android smartphones at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
The software could offer salvation for the growing number of smartphone owners outsmarted by the profusion of settings and options the latest devices offer. Change the wrong one by mistake, and you may disable key functionality of the device with no idea how to restore it.
"Smartphone devices are getting deployed so widely, they are not all tech savvy users any more. And they are going to need support," said Kevin Bardos, LogMeIn's vice president of product development.
Rescue+Mobile allows tech support staff to take control of a smartphone -- with the owner's permission -- in order to verify and change settings, and also to chat with the owner to explore the problem. All operations are logged to a file on the phone.
Using a companion application on their PC, support staff can extract and review an impressive amount of information from the phone, including the remaining battery life -- important if you're about to embark on a lengthy repair operation -- and details of how most of the options are set. They can juggle several support conversations at once, queue up future operations, and even reboot the phone at a distance if necessary.
"Wireless carriers are seeing a jump in customer satisfaction as a result of the remote control," said Bardos. Call times are shorter, and there's an increased chance of solving users' problems, he said.
LogMeIn, with offices in Boston and Budapest, initially developed Rescue to allow remote troubleshooting of Windows PCs, later adding a Macintosh version. The company ported the software to Windows Mobile devices about 18 months ago, and introduced a version for phones running Symbian OS at Mobile World Congress last year. In December, it added a version for the BlackBerry.
The nature of the Android platform means that Rescue+Mobile is unlikely to appear in an online apps store in the near future.
"Android is an open source solution, so in return they have quite a tight security model. They don't have a public API for keypad injection," said Bardos.
That means downloadable applications can't easily fake keypresses on the phone, as LogMeIn must if it is to offer full remote control. Instead, the company will offer the software to carriers and phone manufacturers for integration before the phone goes on sale, allowing them to link into the Android software at a deeper level, he said.
The company has no plans to develop an iPhone version of its Rescue software because of shortcomings in Apple's iPhone SDK (software development kit), said Bardos. "The iPhone SDK doesn't allow applications to run in the background, so until they change their security model it isn't going to happen," he said.
However, LogMeIn does offer an iPhone app that can remotely control a PC.