Vonage, famous for providing easy to use voice-over-ip solutions, released a new iOS 4 app today that allows facebook users to call each other for free.
The app, called Vonage Mobile for Facebook, connects with facebook using Facebook Connect and then displays a list of all of your friends. The friend list is grouped into two groups, those who have the app installed on their iPhone and those who do not. For the users who do not have the app installed, you are able to chat with them using a SMS like user interface. The real power of this app, however, is for friends who do have the app installed.
Friends who have the app installed on their iPhone can be called without using their airtime minutes or incurring additional charges (data charges not withstanding). To call, simply choose the friend to call and the app will make the call. If your friend does not have the app running, they will get a notification that they have a call waiting for them and when they view the notification, the app will start and ring. The App emulates the iPhone’s phone app user interface and even supports bluetooth audio.
In my initial testing of the app, the call quality was very good (if not perfect at times). I was able to hold lengthy conversations without experiencing any drop offs. It remains to be seen whether or not this app will be able to survive against the likes of Skype, Fring, and the several other providers of VOIP calling including Vonage’s other apps themselves which provide some of the same functionalities. When Vonage will be releasing the same type of app for the Android, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile platforms, this app will allow for easy, VOIP communication using a social platform that many are already using as a contact list.
Vonage has hinted that there is going to be an iPad app coming soon (the name of the current app has the words iPhone and iPod in the title.) Hopefully, the app will also be updated to support background running (such as Skype) which would make it more user friendly and streamlined.
Overall, this is a great solution for those who do not want to maintain yet another contact list and require yet another set of invites and acceptances. For those who have never used the likes of Skype and Fring, but are active Facebook users, this app will be a welcomed option. To make this app infrastructure complete, Vonage should release a facebook app that can accept calls via a browser. Only time will tell how far Vonage will take this app and its infrastructure.