How Fring is Schooling Skype on Every Single Front

The other day we got an overview of the VoIP app landscape. There are many solutions across various platforms that allow users to call for free from their mobile device. In terms of user-base, there is no denying that the king of this space is Skype with over 600 million users and an approved $8 billion acquisition from Microsoft.

However, when it comes to innovation, the picture is completely different. Skype has been known to drag its feet and come to market later than other products and even once Skype does release its product, it is usually very limited in functionality and not available to everyone.

Before we go into details, let’s turn the clocks back to July 2010. One of the more popular free calling mobile apps Fring, which allowed users to call each other on the Fring network as well as via Skype, received a serious blow when Skype shut down access.

Well, at least we thought that was the case, but Fring has proven time and time again that it continues to out innovate the VoIP giant on every front and the latest developments are no different.

Video Calling

While Fring brought video calling to iPhone and Nokia devices back in November 2009, Skype only supported this feature a year and a half later, and only on iPhone. Till today, Android, the fastest growing mobile operating system on the planet does not have a Skype app that supports video calling. The Fring Android app supports video calling from back in May 2010.

Native iPad App

Enough has been said about the tablet space or should I call it the iPad space. Where does Skype stand on this matter? No native app to be found. Yes, there are rumors and even a leaked video of the upcomIing iPad app, but what took them so long? Fring has already released its native iPad app with a beautiful UI and tons of features not available on any other platform.

Group Video Chat

Fring has full support for group calls with up to four participants on iPhone, Android, and iPad. Skype supports group video calling too, but only on PC and only if you want to pay $8.99 a month. Really, Skype?

3rd Party Networks

Fring, along with other services such as Nimbuzz supports 3rd party networks such as Aim, MSN, ICQ, and more. Skype went out of its way to ban and block all 3rd party networks from accessing its service. This includes of course Fring and Nimbuzz.

Cross-Platform Support

While Fring has full support for Ovi, Android, and iOS, Skype has an iOS app, a half baked Android app, and depending on your carrier, an app for BlackBerry and Windows Mobile, which I was never able to download or use.

Calls over 3G

While an app that lets you call for free is a great thing, if the user is dependent on Wifi, it kind of defeats the purpose as you are not always in a hotspot. The second Apple allowed apps to call on the 3G network, Fring was all over it. The company allowed free voice and video calling over 3g in January 2010. Only six months later, in May 2010, Skype enabled audio calls over 3g.

Cross-Carrier Support

When you download Fring on any OS, you know what you get? Fring! When you download Skype, well that is a completely different story depending where you are and how your operator feels about you calling for free instead of paying them an arm and a leg. Skype works on some operators but many still block the service. Examples include Chinese operators, or Sprint offering only a stripped down version of Skype, as well as exclusive versions of the app for Verizon and the Japanese KDDI.

On a more macro level, the overall attitude that Skype seems to transmit is, if you are one of the “lucky” ones who happens to be on a supported platform, with the right device, on the right carrier, and are willing to wait a year or two, than you can use our service. Fring, on the other hand seems to consistently be on the forefront of mobile technology and when the company releases its product, it is available for everyone, everywhere.

There is a lot more to say about the way Skype operates vs. the younger and more hip Fring, but I think you get the point. What is most interesting about this comparison, is that while Fring continues to push forward on new and exciting innovations such as its latest iPad app, Skype will soon become an integral part of Microsoft. Logic dictates that if today, Skype focuses mainly on iOS as we can see from its video calling support, tomorrow when Skype will be part of Microsoft, it is only safe to assume that its focus will shift to Windows Phone 7 and the other 99.9% of mobile users on the planet will suffer from even slower releases and lack of innovation.

For the sake of 600 million Skype users, I sure hope I am wrong, but something tells me I am spot on.


Author: Hillel Fuld

"Hillel is a tech blogger who manages multiple sites such as Technmarketing, Appboy, and inneractive. In addition, Hillel has written on many leading online publications such as Mashable, Gigaom, and others. In addition to his blogger hat, Hillel is an active Twitter personality who defines himself as a "Social media addict". When Hillel is not blogging or tweeting, he is the Head of Marketing for inneractive, a mobile startup that deals with app monetization across all mobile platforms."

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