Conway Company First Orion Expands PrivacyStar Offerings

First Orion of Conway has made a business out of providing cellphone privacy with its smartphone application PrivacyStar.

The app, which costs $2.99 per month and is currently available to Android and BlackBerry users, was originally designed to provide users with ways to protect their phones against telemarketers and other unwanted calls. To date, more than 123 million calls have been blocked with PrivacyStar, and more than 66 million unknown numbers have been looked up.

Jeff Stalnaker, CEO of First Orion, said that company continues to develop PrivacyStar features in response to what its customers want. "We've been fortunate to continue to be able to build our business," Stalnaker said. "Most recently we've announced two new features for our Android version of PrivacyStar. And they were really at the request of our user base. We do a lot of surveys and ask our user base what is it that they'd like to see - what improvements, what enhancements, what new features."

Directory assistance, which is currently available for Android users and will soon be available on the BlackBerry, is exactly what it sounds like. "It works very much like a Google search," said Stalnaker, "very much like 411."

By selecting the directory assistance feature within the PrivacyStar application, users can search for businesses or restaurants. "You can either speak or type what you're looking for," Stalnaker said. "We return the search based on your location and what's nearby. From there, you can map them, you can call them or you can add them to your contacts. It's been very, very popular."

The other feature, text ID, fits with the original goal of PrivacyStar to provide protection to those who use the app. It's a feature that Stalnaker said he was particularly excited about.

"More and more users are getting text messages from people they don't know," he said. "That person is not in your contacts. And you read the message and go, 'This person knows me and I think I know this person, but who is it?'"

The person receiving the text message can use the text ID feature to identify the sender, and then choose to either add the sender to the recipient's contacts or to block him. Stalnaker said that this feature also had been popular and was one that was repeatedly requested by PrivacyStar's user base.

The new features, he said, are "two significant enhancements that took a lot of technology and a lot of time to develop." Though First Orion does do work on development for PrivacyStar in-house, the company also uses some outside developers, most of whom are in Arkansas. "At industry conferences," Stalnaker said, "I always have people ask me 'You guys did that in Arkansas and not Silicon Valley?' Absolutely!"

First Orion has more in store for PrivacyStar. "We continue to add new features about every two months or so," Stalnaker said. "We are committed to the space of privacy, protection and preference."

The company is also working on developing PrivacyStar for iPhone, which Stalnaker said he hoped would happen sometime in the third quarter of this year. For the past five months, the company has also been working on what Stalnaker called "a very significant partnership agreement with one of the major leading network providers globally." He couldn't reveal the name, but did say that the contract was executed on June 30, and more details about the deal would be coming in the next few weeks.