Thursday, December 4, 2008

Excuse me, I just fring-ed

I'm not sure if ahead of the curve or behind it on this one, but I just added a new application on my mobile phone: fring. It not only fills a "want" in my mobile life, but also provided a great user experience during set up and with the user interface. Therefore, I wanted to reward them with a little free PR. I'd heard of it a while ago, but didn't pay much attention until saw that it allows you to add Skype as an add-on. Having family in the US, we have long used Skype and, more recently, Oovoo a lot for free video calls. I have a US SkypeIn phone number and keep a balance for SkypeOut balance for international calls. I forward calls from Skype to my Ukraine mobile phone for "when I'm mobile", in case my family tries to call. The only piece of the puzzle missing for me was the ability to make outgoing international calls and send messages from my mobile without paying high mobile calling rates. And it would come in handy because I occasionally find myself running late for our weekly family call, and want to let others know. Now I usually just send a quick email from my phone, but there is no guarantee that they will see it in time. So, all in all, outgoing mobile Skype capability is a "nice to have", not a "need to have". But it's also cool to have the regular phone numbers in my Skype contacts list on my mobile in case I want/need to make international calls while "on the go". And it also has all Skype features, so I can send files (e.g. photos) stored on my phone in addition to voice and IM. I can email them probably just as easily and to multiple people, but it's nice to have options. Of course, the next challenge is to find a way to use Skype while avoiding hefty roaming charges while traveling outside of Ukraine.

As for the user experience, the website was extremely clean and easy to navigate. All I did was enter my country and mobile phone number, and within 1 minute I had the SMS with the link to download the app. The online instructions for adding VoIP services weren't too helpful, but the installation process on the phone was so easy I didn't even need it. I literally had the thing up and running under 2 minutes. The user interface on the phone is also quite clean and easy to use. The ease of using the service and the set up process is almost too good to be true. Having become somewhat cynical about the quality of many mobile apps, I am preparing myself for disappointment down the road. It can't be this easy. And how can fring do it while Skype is only offering a beta version for mobile that only has full calling capabilities with select countries, of which Ukraine and the US are not included. I'll have to look into that further. But kudos to fring so far.

By the way, fring has its own IM service, which makes me respect them even more. Instead of trying to force you to use their service, their app lets you also choose to use Skype, Facebook, MSN Messenger, ICQ (which is the most popular IM service in Ukraine), and others. I don't know if they have a Russian-language version. The menu is so simple, they may not need it, but it might help adoption.

The mobile operators may fight them, though, because they would cut into their international calling revenue. But I think there is probably a business case for a, ahem, forward-thinking operator, to embrace an application like this as a way to generate more messaging traffic. Another avenue may be to work with a mobile device maker to get the app pre-installed. Hmm, that might just be crazy enough to work.


Anonymous said...

See Great software, also.

/ Vadim