Viber - The Over-hyped, Under-featured Skype Clone
There have long been rumours of Google Voice finally having the ability to make calls over the internet; as in true VOIP calls. But, while we wait for yet another Google product to be released, Viber has created quite a storm in the iOS market. Lauded by reporters, Viber allows users to make free calls and texts to other Viber users, and is now beta testing for Android. But, don’t be fuelled by the frenzy.
TechCrunch, possibly the source of Viber's success, gushes about how great the app is for the iPhone, while providing zero evidence as to why this is the case. And while I don't doubt the veracity of the statements, it does lack real substance.
So what does Viber actually do? Similar to the video chat application, Tango, it syncs with your phone's phonebook and allows you to call or text anyone in your list who is also using Viber for free. Now, if they aren't using Viber, it basically just uses your phone to make a regular phone call.
Viber touts their no usernames or registrations as a feature, and while that may be one less barrier for new users, in the long term having a group of contacts that you've chosen is incredibly useful--both for the company and the user. It's why quite a few people disable Facebook chat, as the default setting is to allow everyone to know when you're online.
Voice calls and text messages are more personal forms of communication and most people like to have some control over their use. Without a user account, there is no real way to have personalized settings. And with the heavyweight competition in Skype, it's difficult to see this app gaining as much traction as it would need to be a long-term player.
Skype already offers free video calls in iOS and in all likelihood those features will be ported over to Android devices soon.Couple that with the ability to call people on their computers, it will be a difficult road from here to profitability for the folks at Viber.