Bringing VR out of office and study spaces will serve to help it attract the new audiences it needs to continue growing
- It talks to you
Usable interface and cheap call rates but needs a bit of time to mature
Zoep, formerly known as Voipster, is capable of direct peer-to-peer calls with other Zoep users and SIP calls to users of any SIP capable hard or soft phone worldwide. Like Skype and Gizmo project they also offer Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) connectivity for a fee.
Zoep has a simple and attractive interface. The main window displays contacts, active calls and has an option to display status to other users - online, chatty, away, extended away and do not disturb. There are three big buttons on the menu bar for commonly used functions - adding a contact, finding someone online in the Zoep directory and checking on your account - used for topping up credit for making calls to land-lines around the world. Zoep's prices seem about equal with the SkypeOut service, which makes for some bargain priced international phone calls.
Since VoIP client applications all do pretty much the same thing the choice between them will likely be based on gimmicks. Zoep has a couple of cute ones. Like an IM client, it has the option to block users but this is limited to blocking only other Zoep users so it probably won't be much use to anyone. The other is the ability to change the sounds the application uses for events - but not just to other sounds. It has text-to-speech built-in so a voice of a 1980s movie computer can be set instead of or in addition to playing a sound for events like logging in or getting a call. While the interface doesn't make it clear, the sounds are all just WAV files so the list of event sounds can be customized by a little hunting around in the filesystem.
Unfortunately it's still a bit buggy, but to be fair it is still in beta. Trying to use the search function to find other people in Australia crashes the application every time but searching for people with names beginning with "D" in Australia works fine. It is also infuriating to work with contacts. Though they can be added and viewed from the main screen, to edit them requires selecting "Manage" from the "Contacts" menu and even then it doesn't allow changing anything other than the categorization of the contact. Presumably this functionality is yet to be developed, but as it stands it severely limits the product.
What is also lacking is the ability to control the calls in any way. While Zoep-to-Zoep calls presumably use a proprietary codec system, there isn't any way to control the quality of the Zoep-to-SIP calls. Nor are there any audio quality wizards or promises of automatic systems operating to control gain, attenuation or echo. While that mightn't be a problem for many users it will mean most laptop users will need a headset with microphone otherwise they'll get terrible feedback between the microphone and speakers.
In all it appears Zoep might be a good product, but it just isn't quite there yet.
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