With the rising popularity of smartphones, it’s safe to say that the frontiers of personal connection have drastically changed.
Coinciding with the surge of smartphone usage has been the development and release of various different messaging applications. One of these apps, Viber, has been gained worldwide attention since its release in December of 2010 and with the most recent update, it offers many new and notable features.
Founded by Talmon Marco, the first version of Viber was released in December of 2010 exclusively for the iPhone, adding to the growing number of VoIP applications for purchase in the app store. In May of 2012, Viber was released for Blackberry and Windows Phone devices. An Android-compatible version followed soon after in July of 2012. After reaching 90 million users within weeks of its Android release, Viber added group-messaging capabilities and HD voice calls for both iPhone and Android. Since then, Viber has reported more than 200 million new users and released versions of the application for Series 40, Symbian, and Bada devices, as well as for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows.
As a VoIP (voice over internet protocol) application, Viber is capable of running on WiFi, 3G, and 4G internet connections. The app is available in more than 20 languages including English, German, Chinese, Arabic, French, Spanish, and Russian, and can be downloaded for free on any compatible device. Once downloaded, your Viber account can be synced with your phone contacts to save the time and hassle of re-entering phone numbers into the app. Since its humble beginning, Viber updates have added image, video, and audio messaging capabilities, and expanded HD voice calls to Windows Phone. A public beta has also been released for Linux, however, the final release date has not been stated. In an effort to aid typhoon victims in the Phillipines, Viber released the ViberOut feature. By enabling Viber users to call non-Viber users, the company hoped to help reunite families who had lost their homes. After generating excitement amongst smartphone users, ViberOut is now a popular feature available on iPhone and Android devices. Calls now cost around $0.03 per minute as opposed to free Viber-Viber HD calls.
The newest update to Viber shows promise for the app’s popularity and design. Version 4.2, which is now available for download on iPhone and Android, allows users to permanently or temporarily block other numbers. The update also included new image messaging capabilities making it possible to send up to ten photos at once to a single recipient or to a group. With even more updates to be released in the near future, Viber is focusing on the implementation of in-app purchases to increase revenue and attract new users. Currently, users can buy various different stickers to use in messages. Usage of these stickers has been carefully documented by Viber for reference purposes as the app adds new stickers for customers to purchase.
Unfortunately, Viber has strong competition from other VoIP applications on the market. Many others such as Line, Kik, GroupMe, and WhatsApp have secured positions as top messaging apps for iPhone and Android devices, but each has significant pros and cons. While some of these apps, namely Line and WhatsApp, have reported a significantly greater number of downloads than Viber, neither of the two offers HD voice calling options. Line users can use the app to make voice calls, but many report slow connection speeds that have affected the quality of their calls. On the other hand, Viber users acknowledge and praise the quality of HD calling through the app. Minimally, users of all five applications can send instant messages, photos, videos, and voice recordings. GroupMe, Kik, and WhatsApp do not offer voice calls as Viber does, while calls through Line are frequently less reliable. Although WhatsApp is used to send around 10 billion messages per day, it is not available for free download like Viber. At a price of $0.99, WhatsApp is one of the best messaging apps for those looking for easy text communication, but certainly doesn’t make the cut in voice call capability. GroupMe, owned by Microsoft, lets users like messages and share user locations, but also fails to offer voice calls like Viber does. Lastly, Kik lets the user create an account without a phone number, making it the dominant messaging app for tablets and certain Apple devices, but yet again does not allow them to make voice calls.
There are many messaging applications that have provided users with new and interesting ways to keep in touch, but Viber is the only one to offer reliable HD calling services. Despite the plethora of free downloads, the decision can be easily simplified: for users whose communication is primarily text based, apps like WhatsApp are better options, but for those who desire the personal connection of voice calls, Viber is the clear choice.