Viber, the mobile communications platform offering free voip calls, text and photo messages, announced that it has surpassed the 100 million users milestone across the multiple phone platforms that it supports. Additionally, the company unveiled that it is simultaneously releasing three new messaging versions of its application for popular phone platforms: Nokia’s Series 40 feature phones, Symbian and Samsung Bada. These three platforms make up the largest market share of phones in Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa.
Update: In the excitement of what this means for Africa’s feature phones, we didn’t check the fine print. Turns out the feature phone version is a WhatsApp, allowing users to send and receive free texts and photos.
We think this is still a great deal as it offers the choice for mobile phone users to not use the more expensive SMS and MMS.
How does it offer ‘free’ voip calls?
Viber routes phones calls over 3G or Wi-Fi, and this results in cheaper rates for consumers. All you have to worry about is your data bill.
During the call, Viber spends approx 500 KB per minute (250 up and 250 down), so assuming you buy a data bundle of 10 MB for US $1, you can get 20 mins of talk time depending on the data connection quality. This is far much cheaper than the expensive 23 cents per minute charged by Zim mobile network operators for local calls, forget international calls.
Other than free voip calls it also offers an instant messaging service akin to WhatsApp, and sending a message uses less than 1 KB. When you add up the numbers, this means the instant messaging is technically “totally free”, even on 3G.
The growth of these apps truly shows how SMS is dying or rather, dead. Mobile network operators should find ways of monetizing such app models, as one of their cash cow is slowly but surely, being slaughtered.
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