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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.


Skype on 3G mobile impresses

by alec on June 1, 2010

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Yesterday, using the newly announced Skype over 3G for iPhone,  I made a number of Skype to Skype calls on iPhone and iPad. The calls were made from my office as well as from the car.  Initial thoughts:

  • Crystal clear sound. Never have I heard that kind of sound quality on a mobile device.
  • Sound drop-outs. Yup.  Skype on 3G is great in a fixed setting.  However, while in motion it suffers as the car roams from one cell to the next.  It’s as bad or worse than an ordinary cellular telephony under the same circumstances.
  • Missing “must have features”. Bluetooth and Voice Dial.  You really can’t use Skype to make calls while in motion unless you start the call first, and then begin driving.  Ordinarily, I key my bluetooth speaker, which lights up the iPhone voice dialer and then I tell iPhone who to call.  Skype on iPhone is simply not well enough integrated with iPhone to do this yet.

All in all it’s an impressive technical achievement, as many have already written, and I’ll be using it a lot.

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Skype’s “small fee” is noise guys.

May 30, 2010

Image by Photo Giddy via Flickr Sometimes you have to really shake your head at the quality of the commentary on the internet.  Fact: Skype has finally released a version of Skype for iPhone that supports calling over 3G networks.  Never mind the fly in the ointment that all the commentary is  stuck on – […]

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GIPS acquired by Google. How does Abramson pick them?

May 18, 2010

It’s been a busy day in the blogging world as folks have chimed in on the Google acquisition of Global IP Sound.  Many have noted that GIPS supplies Google’s competitors in the voice world as well as Google, and wonder how long that relationship will continue. Over on the Voyces blog, I wrote that this […]

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Crater sized loophole in the Truth in Caller ID Act?

April 15, 2010

Yesterday the US Congress passed the Truth in Caller ID Act, designed to curtail deceptive Caller ID spoofing.  The substance of the law is this short paragraph: “It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States, in connection with any real time voice communications service, regardless of the technology or network utilized, to […]

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VoIP is everywhere

February 3, 2010

Last week I described the PSTN as simply a legacy user interface to today’s communications networks, based on the fact that most of the core network is already VoIP. The PSTN is simply the average person’s experience of an all VoIP network.    While the description of the PSTN as UI drew some comment, nobody argued […]

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Video: the next big telephony user interface

January 26, 2010

At last week’s ITEXPO a question was raised on one of Andy Abramson’s panels about the future of the PSTN.  Specifically, the question was whether VoIP will finally triumph over the PSTN, and it was asked in the context of both mobile and landline services. My response was “that’s kind of a loopy question, as […]

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That’s pure Horse Hockey, Om.

January 20, 2010

Om Malik is advancing a new theory to explain why Apple isn’t allowing VoIP on 3G applications to be approved in the App Store.  Voice quality, he writes, may be the reason.  Citing industry figures like my good friends Andy Abramson, Karl Good, and Pat Phelan, who have all written about the quality of VoIP […]

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Virgo’s first VON a solid outing

September 23, 2009

I’ve been at the VON show in Miami Beach the last couple of days.  This has been the first VON since the show was acquired out of bankruptcy by Virgo Publishing.  This VON lacks the panache of VON founder Jeff Pulver.  Attendance, at 3,000, was lower than in the past, and the exhibit hall smaller […]

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Gizmo5 + Google Voice = free phone service

July 28, 2009

Sunday morning the new Gizmo5/Google Voice mashup debuted. Out in beta, it lets you make a phone call, via Wifi/Gizmo5, using your Google Voice account. This new capability is in addition to Google Voice’s existing ability to route an incoming call to your Gizmo5 account. In the US, that means that starting now, if you […]

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