Skype just rolled out an update to its Android app, bumping it up to v5.0. The app isn't going to look much different, but it is gaining the ability to automatically find and add your phone contacts to your Skype contact list. It even happens automagically in the background.
Rakuten is often referred to by western media as "the Amazon of Japan." That description seems more and more apt given some of the mega-retailer's recent purchases, including Canadian e-reader company Kobo. Yesterday Rakuten announced that it had purchased Viber, an up-and coming voice-over-IP company with apps on Android, iOS, and Windows, among others, for a whopping $900 million.
Viber is primarily a Skype competitor, though it also offers text and picture messaging, group chat, and cross-communication between mobile and desktop operating systems.
Viber is what you get when you take a free VoIP service, create an app for it, and smother it with purple. Any two people with the app installed can communicate with one another via voice or text entirely for free. Now the team is adding in the ability to make low-cost calls to any dedicated phone number.
Users can buy credits for "Viber Out" via in-app purchases within either the mobile or desktop software.
The low-cost Sprint MVNO FreedomPop just launched its freemium phone service last month, but now it's expanding phone selection by letting users bring their own handsets. However, that doesn't mean you can take just any Sprint device over the FreedomPop and kiss your bill goodbye – there are some restrictions.
Looking to save a few bucks by using VoIP apps instead of voice minutes? I hear you. It's not exactly difficult to find a plan offering unlimited talk, but with a new Sprint MVNO popping up every couple of weeks and such affordable deals as T-Mobile's $30 5GB prepaid plan still lingering around, it's worth taking a look at cheaper options. Viber's latest update has rolled out, doing its part to make transitioning to VoIP all the more attractive.
Users of Google Voice have long called for the company to pay more attention to the seemingly forgotten service for quite some time. Unfortunately, they may be getting more than they were hoping for. While many people are thrilled to hear Voice will finally support MMS and become a part of Hangouts in early 2014, Google is also planning to close up shop for all 3rd-party apps that relied on the service for free texting and VoIP calling.
Update: Vic Gundotra, Google's SVP of Engineering, had this to say after posting on Google+ about the new Voice update:
Guys, don't worry. We have massive investment in Android. I promise you will be happy soon. Don't get upset because we show some love to Google users who use iOS. There are a lot of them. And they are good people :-)
So chill out: it looks like VOIP for Voice is coming to Android sooner or later.
There are many VoIP clients out there for Android, such as Skype and Viber. They save users from having to place calls over their cell network, potentially using up minutes that they may not have. This behavior eats into carriers' profits, so it's no surprise that they'd prefer if we avoided putting these apps on our phones. It's more surprising, though, to hear that one carrier has chosen to make one of these apps themselves.