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Viber takes on Skype with free phone calls app for iPhone

There are a number of Voice-over-IP (VoIP) apps available for iPhone, each promising that they offer the cheapest and/or most powerful service. It can be hard to figure out exactly whose boasts ring true, and whose are exaggerated.

For that reason, we were initially cautious about Viber, which has just gone live on the App Store. However, it certainly talks the talk, providing a list of reasons why it thinks it’s better than rivals.

We’re intrigued by the fact that it requires no registration: you simply use your actual phone number as your identity. Viber then digs into your iPhone address book and lets you know which friends have the app installed, and can thus be called for free.

You can call people who don’t have Viber, but the app simply re-routes it as a normal phone call (with all the same charges). The app runs in the background so you can receive calls, and provides a missed call notification for when your phone is turned off or out of reception.

For now, Viber is completely free – without even any ads. How do they make money then? The developer says it’s working on new features, including free text messages, more ringtones, wallpapers and location-based services. Presumably some of the latter three will be paid for.

There is lots of competition: Skype, Truphone, Nimbuzz and the rest. We’ll have to see how Viber takes off, since the true measure of its worth will be how many of your friends are using it.

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