Saturday, January 22, 2011

Late adopter?

Suddenly I'm a late adopter of new technology: Until today I had never heard of Viber. After installing it, the app plainly says that 41 of my contacts are already Viber users. Wow. What the heck is Viber?

"Look at my new cool StoneAxe 4!" - Another late adopter(?)
Viber is a Skype killer. Skype will have to move fast not to get wiped out.

What's so great about Viber then? After all, it's just a phone app - it even looks the same as the built in iPhone phone app. So nothing is new. But still, what makes it great are three little things:
  1. You can receive phone calls when the app is not running. I tried it on my non-multitasking iPhone 3G and it worked perfectly using the notification system of iOS.
  2. Your contacts are all there. Viber lets you make normal cellular phone calls to those of your contacts that do not have Viber.
  3. Since your cell phone number is your user name, the registration process is incredibly simple and more importantly: Viber already knows which of your contacts who are Viber users, since your contact list contains their phone numbers. No need to build up a new buddy list.
Skype has none of the above features. The Viber app is how the Skype app should have worked all the time.

I have 79 Skype contacts. Twelve of those are logged in. Six of them are at or near their computer. Correction, five, I shouldn't count the Skype Test Call. I mainly use Skype as an IM client. Very seldomly I make or receive calls. Why is that? Well, even though there are right now 25+ million users logged in, only 6% of my contacts are logged in. Equally important is the fact that I prefer a little bit of privacy as I talk on the phone. Even a laptop isn't so simple to carry around, especially if it's docked into other hardware on your desk.

I want a phone when I want to talk on the phone.

Everyone knows that the telecom companies are slowest-moving, least innovative companies in the world. But then there was Skype - and Skype created a client for my HTC Windows phone. Great I thought, since I'm already paying for unlimited data. But the app was a disappointment since it couldn't use the normal speaker of the phone. It also quickly drained the battery when running, and I had to keep it running for it to be useful.

The Skype app for iPhone is better, but is mostly the same old application. Why start it up if I have nobody to call?

Viber changes that. The whole reason Skype succeeded was: It worked! MSN Messenger didn't, ICQ didn't and so on. Skype made it possible to make voice calls with an IM client. Great.

Now Viber does just that for the device that phone calls are supposed to be made on. Viber just works. On my phone.

Those are my first impressions of the app and the service. Maybe Viber will prove not to be reliable enough. Maybe Skype will strike again. Maybe the Viber company will never find a working business model (Skype seems to making money though).
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