VoIP apps are probably the most useful things you can install on your Android device. With a 3G or a Wi-Fi connection, you can call and message your contacts for free. Now we all know that Skype is the pack leader when it comes to VoIPs, but with the arrival of Viber on Android a few months ago, has the playing field already been leveled?
We’ve tried installing both apps on our own devices (Samsung Galaxy Mini, HTC Wildfire, Samsung Galaxy Tab GT-P1000, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1) to check out their strengths and weaknesses. Here are the things we found out.
Skype has long been synonymous with online calls since it was first launched on desktop computers, so it’s great to know that they deliver the same user-friendliness on mobile devices.
Upon downloading and installing the app from the Market, you’ll be asked to either enter your Skype username or create a new account. The app will then give you three options – sync all your contacts, sync only with existing Skype contacts, or don’t sync at all. According to the notification, “it may take a minute or two”. Well, ours took around thirty minutes on both Wi-Fi and 3G. We don’t really know why — it possibly could be because of carriers, or the fact that Skype is actually pretty heavy on the memory – but you’d better try doing something else first while waiting for everything to sync.
Once you’ve collected all your contacts, you can freely play with the app. You’ll notice four categories on your main page – Contacts, Recent, Call Phones, and Profile. Contacts is a simple and clean list of names in your network (depending on what syncing option you chose), and it shows which of them are online and available. Recent gives you “events”, or the latest numbers that you’ve contacted or that have contacted you. Call Phones will direct you to your keypad. Profile shows your profile picture and your customizable “mood status”, as well as other information such as your email, Google, and YM accounts, among others.
As always, Skype has awesome in-voice quality during Wi-Fi or 3G calls. Video calling, the feature that separates Skype from other VoIP apps, was pretty nifty. The voice quality was great, the video was clear, and all in all it was a pretty smooth experience. Doing voice calls from tablet to tablet didn’t have any problems, but phone to tablet (Galaxy Mini to Galaxy Tab 10.1) didn’t work since apparently the Galaxy Mini didn’t have the minimum requirements needed for, so we got normal voice call instead. Skype’s blog has a list of devices that support video calls which you might want to check out.
Now on to Viber, the app that some say can give Skype a run for its money. Although the simple purple interface isn’t as appealing as the happy sky-blue of Skype, its functionality is definitely worth checking out.
Download the app from the Android Market or from the Viber website. After installation, Viber will prompt you to choose your country, after which you’ll need to enter your phone number – no more signing up or keeping another user name, which is actually a relief. Once you’re done, the app will tell you to wait for a text message that will give you a number code which you’ll need to proceed. In our case, a pop-up with the needed four digits appeared first before the SMS arrived. It’s probably to ensure that you get your code if in case you don’t receive the SMS.
When you’re done, Viber will immediately sync with your entire address book, and the entire process only takes a couple of seconds. The synced list will not only show the names of your contacts, but also who of them are on Viber. Tap on a name, and aside from contact info, you’ll see that the first two options are “Call Viber – Free Call” and “Send Message – Free Message”. If you choose these two, you’ll need a data plan or a Wi-Fi connection.
The part that we like about Viber is that that you get a pop-up of messages received, which is much like what Handsent does. Another thing is that you don’t really have to be in the application to receive calls. Meaning, it automatically launches when you receive a call.
As for voice call quality, Viber still lags a bit behind Skype, as there’s a bit of reverb going on, but it gets better as the call progresses.
Viber is accessible even after you exit and go offline, unlike Skype that needs you to go online before you can log on — although of course you can’t use your free calls and free messaging. Offline, Viber can act as your default regular call and messaging app, as it doesn’t cause any lagging to your device.
Both apps are definitely worth installing, since their strengths are pretty much different from each other. For one thing, Skype has video calling. That’s enough reason for you to use it. Viber, on the other hand, is light and as mentioned earlier, can actually be your call and messaging app, even offline. Personally, I’ve got Skype on my tablet and Viber on my phone, but it’s up to you how best you think both apps can be utilized. In the end it’s all about getting the best bang for your buck, and with regard to that, Skype and Viber both deliver.