Ribbit Mobile – First Impressions

November 3, 2009

in general

Ribbit Mobile launched today and after playing with it I’m sure I’m will not switch from GoogleVoice to Ribbit. I’m going to leave it on my mobile for a few more days as a test. I also don’t know how to reverse it (exit it) yet!  Here’s the overview slide:

Ribbit Mobile\

Ribbit mobile is focused on turning your VoiceMail into text which is then delivered to a variety of endpoints. Eg SMS, IM or email. In principle this is great. Now we get context before we call them back. Unlike GoogleVoice I don’t think there is a “listen” in mode. In reality it is focused to those that don’t want to talk except at their own chosen time. Take the message (they support with real-people on the translation) and then if and when you want call back. See RibbitMobile Use Cases

I ran the following tests.
1. Added all my contacts. Although Ribbit only supports Plaxo (which I use) and Outlook (which I don’t). Nothing for mail or gmail or Yahoo.
2. Added a Skype Account and then deleted and added again
3. Added a SkypeIn number as a second number
4. Added another number.

So I synched my mobile, added a Skype account and then phoned from my home number. The Skype account didn’t ring. I presume this is because I don’t have RibbitSkype added as a contact. So I added as a contact. Still didn’t work.

I added a SkypeIn number. I tried to activate. I wouldn’t activate. At first I presumed this was a fault in the Skype CallerID being read. Then I realized that my SkypeIn and SkypeOut numbers (Skype CallerID) are not the same. So I went to my account and changed to my default SkypeIn. Still I could not activate this account. Passing CallerID’s from Skype tends to be tricky. In the end it did ring my SkypeIn number.

Numbers Utility:
I found that it rang my mobile for a long time before taking voice mail. Why can’t I set the number of rings? One can also add extra rings as it tries to find you at the same time. There is in the ringing pattern a point when the ringing stops and you want to hang up just before it  makes chime noise and takes you to the next step.

Here’s a setting snip that shows you there are only two options. You can set it to ring after your mobile starts ringing and while taking VM or you can ring all numbers after it gives up on you answering your mobile.

Ribbit Settings
This is a huge difference versus Google Voice which allows you to ring all numbers at the same time or concurrently and then if none are answered send it off to voicemail and transcription. To complicate this… it rings my mobile at least six times before sending it to my SkypeIn number. Note in the above you can get it to ring your skype account. I cannot get it to ring my Skype Account when my SkypeIn number is off.

Note I didn’t add a SIP channel as the instructions are unclear although I think I’d get to work if I played around.

There are some other details that I still don’t understand. Eg with contacts or People there is a push to get TwitterID’s etc inserted. There is an attempt at adding social network services to the directory. This seems premature. It isn’t working and my 1600+ contact upload apparently didn’t work effectively.

Ribbit and Social Networks?

It never did load my contacts from Twitter.

Comparisons re GoogleVoice, Apple and directionally Phweet:
One can’t help making comparisons. In so many ways they do something similar. Yet RibbitMobile is poorly executed in comparison. It feels like a hodge podge of functionality. It’s UI on the web takes ages to load and despite it saying RibbitMobile I cannot load the browser on my iPhone for it uses flash! The general UI opens and closes adding complexity when none is required. I prefer the GoogleVoice UI by a massive margin.

Making a business of getting the efficiency out of VoiceMail is questionable in my mind. At least as an iPhone user. If MobileMe was to offer the same text translation service and stay integrated with visual voicemail then I’d see absolutely no need to use RibbitMobile.

As the emphasis is on text first and thus screening of voice mail it just confirms my point that context before the call is important. Phweet enables context before the call and then enables you to choose routing before you connect. With Ribbit you have zero control over the ringing process. It doesn’t even appear possible to forward all calls without ringing your mobile first. There are no hours or other access variables. Although in future I’m sure this could be built into lists or groups much like googlevoice has.

I’m sure others will have some insight on the cost structure. Good job BT has big pockets. They will need them. Strategically this supports the idea that short messages should precede calls or set up calls unless the parties are very familiar with each other. It’s not yet anywhere near what I envisage is necessary for rapid location based call escalation.

As a closing comment I think this age of calling numbers is coming to a close. Ribbit is also just another in a stream of solutions that proves numbers no longer have any geographical meaning. That’s just another reason why I’ve continued to focus on URL’s as the exchange format. The future is in something much simpler than  Ribbit or GoogleVoice.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristie Wells November 4, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Stuart,

Thank you ever so much for the deep dive into Ribbit Mobile, and for your open and honest review – especially as it stacks up against Google Voice and your company, Phweet.

We are constantly working on the product and will have much of the ‘quirkiness’ (including tweaks to the UI) taken care when we come out of beta.

I do believe the market is changing and enjoy seeing the innovation around HOW people make/answer calls, but I don’t believe the phone number should be shot and buried…just yet.

Also, to kill your Ribbit Mobile account (if/when you are ready), you need to shoot an email to support@ribbit.com and they will zap it for you. Will be embedded in the product down the road, for now we take care of it.

Thanks again. Your feedback is greatly appreciated!

Stuart November 4, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Kristie,

Thanks for your response. I effectively added a comparison today and update. Even someone like me that should know perhaps and understand can’t work out all the routing reasons instantly. It takes awhile.

You are also right numbers won’t go away immediately or anytime soon. What’s encouraging is that we are moving to a point where filtering for context before we accept that we should be talking will become common place.

I’m not going to shoot or kill my RibbitMobile account right now. I may leave it in mothballs… but I’m certainly interested in its evolution.

I’m glad there are companies out there that can move things forward.

Suzie September 13, 2010 at 5:30 am

DO NOT USE THIS APP! I’ve had this on my Verizon phone for about 6 months now. I am not one to look at the call history on my bill, I just pay it! So I was shocked to see over 40 minutes going to the Ribbit voicemail number in less than a week. I do not call the voicemail number, when I get the text and/or email for what the voicemail says, I just delete the text/vmail and move on. I MAYBE actually call the 206-453-1140 number once a month. And the times and minutes used are at random, they do not match up to when I’m making a call or receiving one. I emailed their support about it and this is their response “When you activate with Ribbit, your mobile phone is call forwarded from your carrier to Ribbit. When your calls are sent to Ribbit voicemail your carrier charges you air time minutes. Below is an explanation of how Ribbit call forwarding works.” and also this reply” Yes. In the scenario pictured below, the caller dials your mobile, is forwarded onto Ribbit, and you answer the call on one of your Ribbit connected phones and talk for 10 minutes. The mobile carrier is keeping the call established on their network, so this counts as 10 minutes against your mobile plan” Basically not helping at all. So comparing my call records online and my call history on my phone, Ribbit has been taking minutes from my plan even when I call someone in my Friends and Family, which is supposed to be unlimited to those 13 people (10 Friends and the 3 family lines I have). If you have this app, just look at the detailed call history on your bill. You will have random call times to the Ribbit vmail number that does not coincide with any calls that you made/received, and yet you’re being billed for them! I enjoyed the text/emails of what my vmail said but not at the expense of my already expensive minutes! Ribbit CANCELLED!

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