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Fring - Fringing Talking - Beyond Skype

I've just been playing with Fring. I wrote a post some months ago Fringing Interesting. It was a quick glance at Andy's blog today that told me to take another look.

Download and install was simple and easy to do. At first I couldn't get Fring to connect to my Skype Account or Google Talk. Their support department suggested that demand may have been a problem. Anyways tonight on my lousy home Indian broadband it connected. Initial call quality better than my recent calls with Truphone. And I've been swearing by Truphone. See my previous post. In a day in this world everything can change.

Possible Impact: (based on six hours of experience)
Anyone that has a Skype centric-life and has a N80 or appropriate Nokia, can connect with WiFi and manage the interruptions or the beeps will adopt this for their general Skype messaging around the home and office. I will turn Skype on my desktop off for the rest of the week and see how it goes. (This means that Skype has really blown it re mobile) Just obsoleted all those WiFi phones that are coming out. Why waste the $150 or so....

These elements are standouts.
 

The Mobile Integration: Nokia makes it hard to keep apps running in the background. Almost all other apps die as soon as you close them. Unless Nokia interrupts your browsing with the call manager you usually find yourself logging back in. Fring is best in class from what I've seen. You can disable the automatic startup (which I have although I'm not sure this will be necessary). Nothing like turning your phone on and knowing (what could quickly become) your favorite app is again up and running.

A simple hide brings you back to Nokia. Hold down the menu key and a the shortcuts appear and you are back straight into Fring. Very nice. For those that have messed with sorting out UI and navigation for an app that needs to run continuously in the background this is about the best you can currently do. Nokia doesn't provide a windows task bar type facility on their NSeries.

Chat. I constantly bleep about mobile chat and how everything from the lastest Nimbuzz to a recent test of Talkonit and other mobile chat programs all take you to a separate screen for text entry. The exception was Agile Messenger. Frings clearly taken a good look at the best in class.

This needs work:

Whose Calling:
Name doesn't show when I get an inbound call! What no caller ID!? Hard to believe. This is a huge potential problem. For it includes calls on my SkypeIn number etc. One of the things about Skype is it is clear who is calling. Maybe I am missing something. Still I don't think so.

What Channel?: I don't get the Fring graphics next to the names. Haven't read the directions so don't understand whether these are google accounts at times or Skype Accounts. As I have to decide which is the preferred channel you are making it difficult for me. I often have two names that look almost the same. Sent two messages to gmail accounts when I thought they were Skype accounts etc.

Characters: I have a few buddies whose Skype names don't use English characters. I have no idea who these people are in Fring. Similarly you can't currently rename them.

I've not imported my Nokia address book into Fring yet. It has 1400 records. I'm going to have to set up a smaller list to test that feature. Still the find buddy by search works easily. I don't seem to have all my Skype buddies yet in the list. Guess they will get there.


Implications:
What's the business model? See the Register. Not sure what to believe yet myself.

The interconnects are pretty interesting. Using SkypeOut may be a detriment to Fring with the latest changes in Skype rates and their addition of a calling fee.

Skype?: Skype has simply lost the high innovative ground. It's worth a separate post. Fring will enable something that Agile Messenger never managed. It's set up well enough already so you can hang out at hotspots and manage your buddylist and simpy chat. If I look at my kids and their SMS usage it would all transfer to chat if they could. WiFi enabled phones like the N80 will take time to proliferate. Still I'm now sorry that I bought my daughter an N73 and not an N80. Fring type programs may even be attractive to blackberry users. 

Why didn't Skype launch a Symbian mobile app? It's beyond me and yet I have a theory. I'm writing about that next. It may also answer the why Skype is going to miss this party.






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Comments (2)


Few comments about the usability issues you raised -
1. We love any comment about the application and the use of it. Our goal is to make it easy and useful. Comments from users like you brought us to where we stand today - and it can be much improved!

2. When you start a chat or a phone session, there is a caller-id indication on top of the display area. It may be obscured by a busy theme background?
3. The presence icons left to the buddy name are generic one, no matter which network you are in. However, on top of the screen next to the fring icon, there is a 'map' of the network on which your body is on. Make me wonder if we put it in the right place.
4. Your 1400 contacts is a big challenge. Please let us know if you managed to get them in. As for the Skype contacts, they should all be in automatically. If not, let us know
5. Character set that are not in English - yes we know, On top of the list.

Stuart [TypeKey Profile Page]:

Hi Bzatfring.
I have a few more comments.. as I've done some further testing.

My example of the no ID I think relates to calls Fring to Fring which bypass the Skype Gateway.

I admit to still being confused by the icons. I'm not sure what they are supposed to communicate. It is still hard to test as the Skype gateway appears overloaded.

I've also observed some funny behavior for chat sessions that get delivered much later. Also MultiChats... Maybe you should block them at this time.

There's more. Still I'm intrigued by it and still trying to use it. It is more reliable on Gmail / Jabber... I just have fewer buddies there to test calls with. I now have it on two phones.

Cheers
Stuart

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