Viber – Another Skype competitor

While I like the idea of another Skype competitor, I don’t really get the competitive difference between Skype and Viber. The most prominent differences as outlined in the Techcrunch article are less power hungry than the current Skype iPhone app and that it is a product that leverages your phone number instead of an ID. 

In my mind, those aren’t strong advantages. It is quite conceivable that Skype could change their app to leverage the Apple Push Network. I can’t imagine it being impossible or overly expensive to do if there were enough drop off of mobile usage of Skype’s mobile product.

I see leveraging a phone number instead of an ID to be a severe disadvantage for Viber instead of an advantage. Considering that the product is targeted to smartphone users, I’d think that most smartphone users today generally don’t remember phone numbers. If anything, the reason why most people use smartphones is to generally to contact people by means other than the mobile phone. In fact, there are actually quite a few people whom I communicate with whom I don’t have phone numbers for. Secondly, while not too many people have multiple mobile phone numbers like I do, most people have multiple devices. I think the most common scenario is having a mobile phone, a work computer and a home computer. Having a communication product that forces me to be tied to one device makes it quite unattractive for me.

As I’ve never tried the product and don’t have an iPhone any more, I’m actually quite curious to see how good is this product for it to be given the rating of “amazingly amazing” from TechCrunch. 

Getting rid of our landline

We’ve finally done it. We’ve finally gotten rid of our landline. Even though we rarely use our home phones, there is the mental dependency of knowing that the landline always works. After years of paying for a home line that was rather expensive for calls that we rarely get other than marketers, we finally decided to get rid of our landline altogether. We wanted to come up with a solution that would be cheaper for us in the long run but wouldn’t really change the way we live our lives. There were two things that we had to work around.

1) Our mobile plan
The good thing about our mobile plan was that all incoming minutes are free. It’s one of those “legacy” Rogers Wireless features that we kept. We rarely call out from the mobile phone and if we made calls, we’d make it from our landline. Even so, most of our communications tend to be either IM anyway. However, we had to consider how we dealt with the outgoing calls to family and friends.

2) Not convenient carrying a mobile phone around the house
There is a reason why we have a cordless phone in every room. That’s because we don’t see the need to carry around a phone every where we go.

To solve this problem, we came up with a solution that used a number of technologies. The first is something called freephoneline.ca. It’s a VOIP service that offers free calls to a large number of cities in Canada. In order for you to use it as a home line replacement, you have to purchase an ATA device and the configuration file. Both cost about $50 each. There are a number of nice things that I like about this solution. The configuration file that you purchase also allows you to use it with a software SIP solution like iSIP. The second is that outside of that one time cost, it’s free. With the SIP configuration, I can also bring this phone number wherever I go. In the land line replacement solution, the purpose of this service is to provide cheap outgoing calls.

It’d be rather inconvenient to figure out which phone to use. To solve this problem, I purchased the XLink BTTN. This is a rather neat device that allows you to plug in a landline as well as pair up to 3 mobile phones via Bluetooth. When paired with a phone, it treats it like a headset. It always assumes that the landline call is cheapest and calls that line by default. It then chooses a mobile phone in sequence. However you can override the sequence by pressing the mobile pairing you want (ie 1, 2, 3) and press the flash key on the phone to select it. If you’re on the landline and get a call on a mobile phone that is paired with, the XLink simply treats it like call waiting for a regular incoming call. One of the new software features that the XLink is beta testing out is a Skype gateway embedded in the device which will be another alternative for low cost calling.

What I like about this is that it’s relatively safe. If we were to have a power outage we’d still have the reliability of our mobile phone. Overall, the solution isn’t cheap. Total cost comes to around $200 but we will recoup that cost in about 5 months without compromising on how we live today.