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Fring In-Depth: VoIP, Skype, IM Application Available in the App Store

Fring is a digital startup based in Israel. Coming out of Tel-Aviv, Fring offers a mobile service that enables free calls between its users. Once you’re using Fring, your normal coverage plan can be bypassed, and for that reason, its presence in the App Store is a rather big deal.

Fring1 I had Fring installed on my jailbroken iPhone, and realized its true potential early on. Due to technical misunderstandings between Apple and Fring (or a lack of communication), the application never made it to the App Store, until now. In fact, up until about a week ago, Fring was planning on releasing 30 private beta licenses. But before the licenses were sent out to all, Apple approved the app, and users can now download it from the App Store.

Back in April of 2008, Fring launched an iPhone version of its service, and it was one of the first killer applications that convinced many users to jailbreak their iPhones. Alone, the flawless Skype functionality that Fring brings to the iPhone could be its killer feature. However, the ability to mash up Skype, MSN Messenger, ICQ, Google Talk™, SIP, Twitter, AIM & Yahoo!™ accounts into one application, makes this a must-have. The service works best on a WiFi connection. However it does work over GPRS, EDGE or 3G services and Windows Mobile, and Symbian handsets as well. Apple’s iPhone is the last platform to officially get the service.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs mentioned that VoIP applications would be allowed in the app store when the iPhone SDK was released. But Fring hasn’t been waiting around for Apple’s approval to make or break the company and its service. Even before being on the iPhone, Fring was signing up nearly 100,000 new users a month (We’ll update when new numbers are released). There’s already a VoIP application in the app store called truphone (iTunes link), but it hasn’t been met with nearly the same fanfare as Fring.

Getting Started with Fring is very simple. Download the App to your iPhone, or via iTunes (link), setup your various “add ons” (accounts) and start communicating. Unlike another IM app offered in the app store, Beejive, Fring’s service is entirely free, so there should be no reason not to download it.

how_fring_works

Setting up Fring is extremely simple. Once you download the app,
simply add your “add ons” or accounts, and begin chatting or calling your buddy list.

Overall, Fring has done a great job exploiting the iPhone platform to leverage their product. Realizing that the App Store was a huge deal in the mobile market, Fring set out to tap into the iPhone and Apple’s devoted user base with its service. So far, the combination of key technology and aligning cultures bodes well for the company. As Apple users, we are used to pixel perfect precision snobs, so launching an existing service into our market is a gamble. And fortunately, Fring has managed to appease all thus far.

This new version is not the same batch of code that we were using in the jailbreak days, it’s completely fresh “out of the oven.” The interface is really appealing and in the world of UI adjustments, there’s not much to get used to with Fring, it’s all pretty familiar. Key decisions, such as the use of keyboard movements, or input fields while chatting make the application feel much more stable than other IM applications, even Google Talk.

how_fring_works

The fring™ mobile VoIP solution maximizes use of the internet capabilities embedded within a subscriber’s handset. The fring solution establishes a peer-to-peer VoIP connection between calling parties, enabling true VoIP sessions between fring enabled handsets and also between handsets and PCs.

If Fring manages to gain traction amongst iPhone users, we could all get very happy with the ubiquity of a service on a handheld device that lets users bypass conventional cellular coverage plans. Essentially, you could only pay for a data plan, and then use Fring. Although this would take some time, and initiative from other major tech players, Fring is leading the push to free us all from our cell carrier prisons. I for one, say thank you.

You can download the Fring iPhone user guide here, or watch a Youtube video demoing the service.

Some benefits to using Fring:

• Chat over Wi-fi or internet data plan
• Use Skype, MSN Messenger, ICQ, Google Talk™, SIP, Twitter, AIM & Yahoo!™ in one place
• Uses thin-client technology that enables true VoIP over 3G, GPRS and WiFi networks
• Fring iPhone users can call other Fring iPhone users for free
• Call users to their computer from your phone
• Receive Skype phone calls, with your own Skype phone number
• Make cheap calls to landline and regular mobile (GSM/CDMA) contacts over Fring
• IT’S FREE

Comments [5]

5 Comments to “Fring In-Depth: VoIP, Skype, IM Application Available in the App Store”

Someone @ October 5th, 2008 at 12:45 pm
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IF you had bothered to test the product you would know that its impossible to use VoIP while on anything but Wi-Fi. This has nothing to do with Fring (who do a great job) but with Apple who, as part of their dark-dealings with the cellular companies, agreed to block VoIP usage while on standard cell networks to block the competition.

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MelB @ October 5th, 2008 at 12:54 pm
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It works for me on a moderately strong 3G signal. And I have been pretty lucky with being able to chat on the go with Fring. Maybe your iPhone is dynamically switching between 3G and Edge in places that you’re trying to use the device so you’re not picking up signal. Otherwise, it should work on most connections (and worse on EDGE, understandably).

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Aviv @ October 5th, 2008 at 5:19 pm
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I did in fact test the product. I even had it on my jailbroken iPhone pre app store. And the product works great entirely depending on your connection/reception level. I have been able to use it with moderately strong 3G and low wi-fi, and I’ve been able to chat fine while on EDGE. But not much more. Chatting is a breeze when on 3G and the UI seems more stable than other competing applications.

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DCGOD @ October 5th, 2008 at 3:01 pm
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I know this is a great product. But where’s the business model? How are they making money right now? If at all.

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Aviv @ October 5th, 2008 at 5:21 pm
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Didn’t you know DCGOD? Everything is free these days. Money comes later. Besides, being in the mobile space and having such a strong product, Fring shouldn’t have much trouble rolling in a revenue model (or a bigger and better one).

They’ve gotten two rounds of VC funding. Series A: $10M and Series B: $10M

So, they’re definitely well funded.

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