Fring for iPhone review

Chatting on the internet can be complicated if one person uses AIM, another prefers GTalk and a third sticks with ICQ. Fring attempts to resolve this, bringing VoIP to the iPhone.

Fring integrates your buddy lists from various platforms into one interface. It supports Skype, MSN Messenger, ICQ, Twitter, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger and AIM, while offering SIP support for a variety of VoIP providers as well.

Setup is easy. Choose which networks you have accounts in, enter your username and password, and Fring will log you in and add your buddies to its list.

Our main quibbles revolve around the way Fring manages chat contacts. If you have a lot, the buddy list can be very long. While a search feature makes it easy to pull up individual contacts, we’d prefer groupings. One other drawback is that it isn’t possible to go on or offline on separate accounts. The only way to remain offline on a particular platform is to unsubscribe, which removes the account. With Fring, you’re either online or offline: you can’t set your status to busy or invisible, or set a custom status message such as ‘work only please’.

Thanks to the Skype (and SIP) integration, Fring lets you make voice calls. Punch up an address book contact (using the country code and + prefix) in the app’s Dialer and you can use your existing Skype or SIP account to make calls.

Fring requires a WiFi connection to make calls – you can’t connect via an over-the-air signal. For iPod touch users, it’s a transformational program.

Fring has two major drawbacks when it comes to VoIP: quality and reliability. Comparing calls against a desktop version of Skype running on the same WiFi network, we found that call clarity suffered noticeably. A secondary issue is dropped calls. If you’re on a Fring call, when another call comes in, Fring drops the first call.

OUR VERDICT

Given that it’s a free app that allows you to make free calls, often using a free WiFi network, the dropped calls are worth the effort.

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