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Viber–the best iPhone VoIP experience yet.

by alec on December 3, 2010

Viber is a new VoIP client for iPhone users that provides free calling between Viber users.  Plus, it’s a free download from the Apple App Store.  Free and free.  You can’t get much better than that, can you?

Some folks are hyping this application as the Skype Killer on mobile devices.  High praise! I thought I’d give it a shot, so I downloaded and installed it, then made a few calls.

Here’s the straight scoop.

Installation – dead easy.  Download, install, authorize and you’re done.

Contacts – pretty easy, although not fool proof.  Viber looks through your address book, compares it to Viber’s list of known users, and then tags the folks it knows about that are in your in your address book.  For the most part, it worked well, except that the application crashed every time I tried to access pal Pat Phelan’s contact.   Perhaps Viber has a thing about Irish telecom entrepreneurs, or maybe just the ones who are potential competitors.

User Experience – amazing.  This is the way mobile VoIP is meant to be.  Really!  Viber runs in the background on the iPhone.  When an incoming call is directed to your phone, a push notification with ring tone pops up, you answer, Viber pops into the foreground and you speak.  It works like a phone, and it’s good enough to replace Apple’s own dialer on iPhone.  Huzzah!  It’s what we all hoped Skype would deliver, but hasn’t yet.

Call Quality – good, bad, and ugly.

  • Good: Viber uses wideband audio between Viber users.  Not only is the audio quality better, the echoes that I sometimes hear when calling iPhone to iPhone disappear.  It’s a huge improvement, and works well on both WiFi and 3G networks, here in Canada.
  • Bad: Latency is an issue.  At the beginning of a call there is a pronounced lag, which catches up a few seconds into the call.  It’s fine after a minute or so of talking but disconcerting at the start.
  • Ugly: Networks are Viber’s Achilles Heel. I talked to my son on Rogers here in Ottawa.  Excellent quality, even on 3G. I called Andy Abramson in San Diego.  He answered on WiFi first, with great quality.  Then he switched to AT&T 3G.  While he could hear me clearly, I couldn’t understand a word he said.  Oops!

Overall, I give Viber an A-.  As a first effort it’s fabulous, and I certainly recommend trying it to see if it will work for you.

Does Viber warrant the label Skype Killer?  Not yet, and maybe never.  Nevertheless, I plan to use it.  A lot.

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