VoIP clients (Voice over Internet Protocol) have been all the buzz really since Skype made its debut in 2003. When developers realized the potential behind mobile platforms and VoIP there was a race to see who could get the best quality services out there. Skype introduced its iPhone version in 2009, and while there have been other apps like Nimbuzz that offer ‘package’ IM services, Skype had the most success on the iPhone.
Then came applications like WhatsApp that offered free texting – BBM style. This was hugely popular because it was cross-platform free texting, simply using (a very small amount of) your phone Internet. Further, instead of using a separate account that you have to set up like Skype does, it relied purely on your phone number, and synced with everyone in your phonebook, so anyone who had the app could contact you without having to add them again.
Well what would happen if you combined the glory of free calling that Skype offers and the free texting and use of your mobile number that Whatsapp brings – the answer is Viber.
Viber is a free application that, once installed, will ask for your number and send you a confirmation PIN which you will then have to enter into the app. That’s it, you’ll then have a Viber account. No logging in! The app will use your number as your ‘ID’ and will immediately check your contact list to show you who else has Viber showing a little ‘Viber’ icon next to anyone who has the app installed. Simply tapping on the contact and pressing the “make a free call” or “free text” button will do just that.
While this offers ‘free’ calls and texts, it uses your data plan and although it uses a very small amount of data, it could potentially cost large amounts of money. Check what your service provider offers when Data Roaming is on – be cautious.
Replacing the Dialer app, Forever
Viber’s design mimics that of the native dialer app for the iPhone to a tee, so much that they’re almost indistinguishable from each other apart from the purple theme that Viber has. This is because they want you to use this app as a replacement to the native app, and want to make the transformation as simple as possible.
When you click on a contact that has Viber on their phone you are given to option to place a “free call” as I have already explained, but you also have the choice to place a normal call, and this is what you do when you go to a contact who doesn’t have Viber. Choosing these contacts will place a normal call, launching the native app and using your normal credit (the same is also the case with texting). That is what makes this app so useful:in addition to providing you with the ability to call people from across the world for free, you can use it as your everyday dialer to call and text people who don’t have Viber.
In terms of usability, I don’t really have many complaints to speak of; the app is pretty quick, definitely quicker than when it originally launched. It can occasionally be a tiny bit slow when you are making a ‘normal call’ (i.e not using Viber’s free calling) to actually launch the native app, but speed has definitely been improving as the app has been updated and I am sure we will see that ‘lag’ vanish soon.
As for call quality I have found it to be pretty much crystal clear – as good as you are likely to get from a mobile VoIP app. Occasionally you get a poor quality line, more often than not it’s when you get a bad 3G connection but occasionally it happens on wifi and Viber indicates with a little icon telling you about your call quality. In my experience, call quality is better than using the iPhone Skype application both on 3G and wifi, but why don’t you just give it a try. After all – it’s free.
As you have come to expect with iOS 4 and the ability for apps to run in the background, Viber does not let you down. You get a notification when you get a text message from Viber or a missed ‘free call’ just like you would a normal call/text, so you don’t have to worry about missing a text or call, as long as you have an Internet connection you can receive calls/texts wherever you are.
Room for Improvement
After Viber added the greatly desired ‘free texting’ service in the Viber 2.0 update, it had addressed its biggest ‘downfall’ and for me there’s not much to complain about, but there are a few requests that I have.
The main complaint I have with the app is one that is likely impossible to address due to the limitations of the what Apple allows developers to control. If I have been having a few conversations with a couple of friends about something and some have been on Viber and some have been regular texts, then I have to keep switching from Viber to the native messaging client. It would be nice to have all of the communication run through Viber.
As I said, this is is unlikely because I don’t think Apple will let anyone take over texting and calling completely, but I might be wrong. Also it would require Viber having a free voicemail service as well which might be a long-shot.
While some users have reported success on the iPod Touch and iPad, Viber is not fully optimized for them so it may or may not work for you. This is also some thing I would like to see.
Viber is a free app that combines the beauty of free calling that Skype offers along with the ease of phone number ID of WhatsApp to make a super useful utility that can rid you of those expensive international calls and texts.
Simple to set up and even easier to place free calls and texts, it’s really a wonder that you don’t already have it. With constant updates and a great support team you know you are in safe hands, I can not recommend this app enough. After all, the more people that have it, the more money you can save on keeping in touch with your friends.
Image the beautiful offspring of Skype and WhatsApp - then paint it purple and you have a wonderful VoIP client that can offer you free calls and texts to your friends that have Viber, and it integrates perfectly with your current address book. Its a free application that you reallyl should have.9