Joshua Schnell, December 2, 2010
The Skype mobile application is pretty terrible. Skype hogs resources and drains battery life quite quickly. So, finding a nice alternative is something that’s been on my mind for the last little while. Skype does a lot of things well, but the iPhone application isn’t one of those things.
I woke up this morning to an interesting press release in my inbox. A company called Viber is looking to take on Skype and other VOIP companies with their new, and free, iPhone application.
Viber lets you place global calls to people on their network for free, much like the Skype network. According to Efrat Cohen, the Viber Community manager, “you can call ordinary numbers just like you would with a regular phone… the calls just happen to be free!”
What’s going to set this application apart from the others, should it be successful, is that it’s going to be available on multiple platforms, and it’s not iOS only. You’ll be able to call your friends on Android phones once they release the Android version.
The press release is a little bit misleading. There’s mention of calls being free in some places, and then they allude to the fact that you need to use Viber specific accounts to make free calls. After some poking and prodding, as well as watching the video below, it becomes quite clear that calls made to people not on the Viber network will be re-routed through your carrier.
But, there are some other features that make Viber stand above the crowd. The application supports bluetooth headsets and will include free text messaging in the future. But, the one thing that really sets it apart from the others: you’re also able to receive calls when the application is closed. We’re not talking the “multi-tasking” type of closed; we’re talking Viber being closed completely. The Viber developers have put together a push notification system that lets users answer calls while the application is inactive. This added functionality really adds to the applications utility for me. Having to have the Skype client running constantly in order to receive Skype calls is the number one reason why I don’t rely on Skype.
Viber isn’t the panacea we’ve all been looking for, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.