Fring is finally released on the iPhone
Yesterday I got my grubby mitts on Fring for the iPhone. For those that don’t know: Fring started out as a Skype gateway application for smartphones (S60/WinMob) and then gradually added more services like SIP and various IM networks. When I had my Nokia E61 it was one of the ‘must have’ applications. Except it didn’t really work..continuously crashing the E61, and sometimes hard-locking the handset. I think I used it approx. 3 times before scrapping it. Anyway, now we have the first beta release of Fring for the iPhone, and so the question is: is it any better than before?
You can grab Fring via Installer.app (for Jailbroken iPhones/iTouches). After installing you must enter your current Fring account details, or setup a new account (which is free). After that, you are now connected to the Fring network. But the real reason for Fring is Skype, so you must enter your Skype details and (vvverry slowly) login to Skype. You can setup multiple services inside Fring, so I also setup my SIP account (VoIP). The interface is clean, clear and straightforward. After a minute or so your Skype buddies will show up in Fring, and then you can call/chat with them. The first thing I did was see how it was calling my Skype friends via the iPhone. This is in some way the ‘holy grail’ for the iPhone: to be able to make free voicecalls from any WiFI hotspot anywhere, cutting out the middleman (the Carrier). This is also the most ‘hated application’ by the official iphone carriers, as this would destroy traditional voicecall profits for them. Don’t expect a whole lotta love for this kind of application showing up in the Official AppStore, mainly because to get the most out of a VoIP application, it should really run in the background AND work over 2.5/3G networks. Apple has specifically stated that it will allow VoIP apps AS LONG as they only work over WiFi, and do not run in the background. Fring in it’s current implementation does exactly what Apple and the Carriers don’t want. So don’t expect Fring on the AppStore any time soon.
Anyway, let’s cut to the chase: Fring allowed me to place a standard Skype call with no problem. The voice quality was ok, not as good as a standard GSM call, but very except-able for a Beta release. SIP didn’t work at all. I tried calling my SIP number from a landline and it just rang and rang. Nothing happened on my iPhone. Apparently this is a known issue, and will be fixed before final release. When closing Fring via the home button, it carries on running in the background, keeping the WiFi link open if using WiFi. This is a good and bad thing. Expect dead batteries, fast. But it is cool to be able to get calls/messages without having to leave the application open on screen. Overall I was impressed with Fring, it ‘feels’ much smoother and less unstable than the S60 variant I used in the past. I have had no crashes yet or lockups. The voice quality could be better, but of course a lot if it depends on the kind of data connection you have: on my home ‘optimized’ WLAN accesspoint the quality was great, but at work with the calls going over WLAN, through a bandwidth allocator and then through numerous NAT’s, the call quality suffered (stuttering sound, dropouts etc). This is something that the makers of Fring cannot do anything about. If you have a piece of crap connection, then you have a piece of crap voicecall.
I have high hopes for this version of Fring. I think it will also become a ‘must have’ application, once they iron out the few bugs in the app. Recommended for a tryout.