Fring could beat Skype for low-cost Android calls

With fewer restrictions and rates as low as one cent per minute, FringOut offers a number of compelling advantages.

Skype may finally be available to all Android users after months of Verizon-only exclusivity, but so is FringOut, an alternative contender that offers many features Skype doesn't.

Much like Skype, whose move followed hard on the heels of the installation of a new CEO, mobile communications company Fringland on Tuesday released FringOut, a service that lets Android users make calls to any phone number worldwide for as little as one cent per minute. FringOut is a new feature of Fring, the company's flagship Internet calling service.

Within the United States, Skype for Android lets users make calls only using Wi-Fi -- a bit surprising, given that the Verizon flavor of Skype is 3G-only. The result is that they must use up monthly minutes in the process. To use Skype for Android, users must also have Android 2.1 or higher. Phones including the Galaxy S line from Samsung are apparently not yet supported.

FringOut, meanwhile, treats calls as data-only and lets users make them over WiFi, 3G or 4G. It also supports all carriers and older versions of Android. And whereas Skype calls on Android involve costs starting at 2.6 cents per minute plus connection fees and VAT surcharges, FringOut calls cost almost nothing, the Israeli company says. Recipients of FringOut calls also don't need to use the carrier-agnostic service themselves.

Android users could choose Google Voice for cheap long-distance calls, of course, while Tango and Qik target video calls.

Fring, however, also offers instant messaging on a variety of services, including GSM, GTalk, ICQ, MSN, Twitter, AIM and Yahoo. Its videoconferencing options, meanwhile, permit video chat not just with other Android users on Fring, but also with users of other platforms with front-facing cameras, such as Nokia and Apple's iPhone.

FringOut requires that users have the latest version of Fring, which is available for free in the Android Market. FringOut is also available on the Symbian platform, with a version for iPhone due out soon.

Fring boasts "tens of millions of users in more than 200 countries," with a million new users added every month, the company says. Now, with the addition of FringOut, it seems to me the service's combination of lower costs and greater flexibility could make it very worthwhile for business users to give it a try.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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Katherine Noyes

PC World (US online)
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