Popular iPhone VoIP and messaging app Viber comes to Android
There might be some superficial Android/iPhone rivalry going on, but end users really benefit when developers release social apps that work on both platforms. Anything that involves sharing or messaging is better when more people use it. An app such as Viber, a VoIP and messaging app that launched on iOS late last year, only works well if many people use it. And so it’s good new for both Android and iPhone users that it is now available in the Android Market. My only question is of how much practical value the average smartphone user will get from it. Essentially, the application is akin to Skype, in that you can call other Viber users using your data plan or WiFi connection, thereby not using any of your cellular minutes. It also says it provides text messaging, but really, since they only go to other Viber users it amounts to an in-app messaging system. There’s value in that, sure, especially since it’s cross-platform. But since almost every smartphone user has unlimited messaging, its value is limited. Also, if you’re on a tiered data plan there is a real trade-off now between voice minutes and data consumption. While those on unlimited plans will always benefit from placing calls over a data connection, someone with a 2GB cap might not.
That said, if you know a lot of people who use Viber, or can convince friends to download it, it might find some use from it. You don’t need to sign up or anything; the app detects contacts that have Viber installed on their phones, and you have the option to automatically place calls to them using the app. That’s another great part: you don’t have to create a new contacts list. I’m sure that’s a hold-up with apps such as Kik. Everyone has multiple contact lists for various applications (Facebook, Twitter, smartphone, etc.), and to create yet another is a pain in the rear. Viber’s ability to scan your address book and recognize other users is an undeniable plus. One thing that Viber advertises is its sound quality. “much better than GSM or a regular phone call,” they claim. That, of course, will depend on your signal strength, but I assume that a WiFi-to-WiFi call will sound pretty clear. The guys at Android Police
played with the private beta version a few months ago, and they weren’t overly impressed with the sound quality. “The call quality was not great,” they wrote, though they then added, “however it was significantly better than the Android Skype app.” Of course, that’s not a very high bar to hurdle. The app is free, which makes it all the more palatable. And, since it was released on iOS in December and has gained popularity, there are probably a few of your contacts already using it, which is a good start. You can download Viber from the Android Market