- Chris Park (@chrislikesrobot) |
Viber is an app for smartphones that allows friends to contact one another. It attempts to be a phone replacement by allowing you to communicate through the app, even if friends aren't using it. Now Viber has released on PC and Mac, but it still requires a smartphone account before you can use it. By using 3G or WiFi, you can communicate through messages or VoIP calls for free with friends who use the app .
But the release of Viber on PC and Mac signals its entry into the domain of Skype, arguably the king of VoIP calls on PC, Mac, and smartphones. With Microsoft's acquisition of Skype, it acts as the replacement of Windows Live Messenger and will add millions of users. Viber was primarily a smartphone app and is only now being offered on desktops with its video calling feature in beta. There is room for growth from Viber, especially since people are looking for Skype alternatives.
How does Viber contend against Skype?
Registration and pricing
To use Viber, you have to register your phone number to receive a code in order to activate the app. If you don't have a phone number, then you can't use Viber. Once you register and install Viber on PC or Mac, it will import your contacts from your phone rather than act as a standalone program. Viber is still free, but only if you are willing to register your phone number.
Skype is also a free service for making calls to other Skype members. To call landlines or phone numbers, you need Skype credit. The price per minute for calling phone numbers differs depending on location, but it is generally cheaper than carrier long-distance charges.
The fact that Skype is free to register makes it a better option. Required phone registration is a deal breaker with Viber.
Viber's video calling feature is still in beta and hasn't been optimized. Video calling is also only possible on PC or Mac, not smartphones.
Skype has integrated video calling across all its platforms. You can make video calls from PCs and smartphones and even communicate from PC to smartphone. With a broader install base, Skype has more users and better functionality with its video calls.
Skype allows video calling with all its apps and desktop versions. Viber is still developing its video calling, but Skype's installation base is much larger.
Since video calling is still in beta, there were issues when testing. There were problems with video quality and audio wasn't clear. Even with a high-speed data connection, these problems still persisted. Using the phone app also led to some issues with audio quality.
Skype has obviously spent a lot of time optimizing video calling and it showed during tests. While the data connection played the biggest part in quality, Skype was smoother and was less laggy. Calling with voice wasn't a problem either with great quality audio from both PC and smartphones.
Skype has had a lot of time to work on the backend of the service to provide great quality video and audio calls and it shows. If there's ever a problem, it is likely related to your data connection.
Viber is free, which is great, but only to other Viber users. If you make a call through Viber to a non-Viber user, you are charged the normal fee from your carrier.
Skype to Skype user calls are free regardless if they are on a computer or smartphone. You can also load Skype Credit to your account to call landlines and other mobile phone numbers for a per-minute charge. Generally this cost is low, allowing you to call friends in other countries without breaking your wallet.
Skype once again wins against Viber. Viber does allow to call non-Viber users, but you are subject to carrier charges. Skype also allows you to call regular phone numbers with a cost, but it is cheaper than what providers normally charge.
Viber is available on popular smartphones operating systems and even includes versions for Nokia Symbian and Bada. The new desktop client is a great way to keep talking with friends without having to hang up and call back.
Even with Viber available on many mobile operating systems, Skype easily defeats it with support beyond smartphones and PC/Mac to include tablets, TV, and even the PlayStation Vita. Microsoft's push for Skype as the primary messaging service for Windows will increase its user base, creating an even larger ecosystem. Skype will also be integrated into Outlook.com giving you a web-based option for communicating with contacts.
Skype's growth outside of mobile devices shows that there is more widespread acceptance of the service. With almost any digital device you own, Skype will probably be supported.
Skype still dominates
Viber may be treading into Skype's territory, but it doesn't have the infrastructure to compete. With Microsoft pushing Skype into many products, its dominance will continue. Until Viber can introduce something new or different, users have little reason to leave Skype.
If Viber can get video calling support onto smartphones, allow registration without phone numbers, or drastically offer something more beneficial than Skype, then maybe it has a chance . But as of right now, if you're a Skype user, there isn't a reason to leave.