Mobile users now have another option for phone calling. On Tuesday, Viber announced that it is launching Viber Out.
Like the similar Skype Out, Viber Out allows users to make phone calls out of the Viber app communication network to people who do not have the app. While Viber calls within its app-to-app IP-based network are free, calls to mobile or landline phones out of the network have a per minute charge, although the company said its rates are lower than Skype's. This new service positions Viber more as a direct Skype competitor, while its previous competitors have primarily been apps like WhatsApp or iMessages.
A comparison chart published by Viber shows a three-minute call to Mexico costing 29.7 cents on Viber Out, but $1.15 on Skype Out. Other comparison prices of Viber-versus-Skype include 1.7 cents to 86.6 cents for the United Kingdom and 29.7 cents to 90.2 cents for Spain. The new Viber service is available for iOS and Android devices, Macs and PCs, with a Windows Phone version expected in the near future.
To employ the call-anyone phone service, a user simply needs to enter the Viber app, have or buy a credit, and dial the number. Credits are available for purchase within the app for $0.99, $4.99 or $9.99.
In addition to pricing comparisons to Skype, Viber CEO and co-founder Talmon Marco has also cited Viber's longtime option to offer caller ID, as well as the ability to use mobile contacts while in the desktop version. When it released its Mac and Windows versions in May, the company pointed out that it was created first for mobile and moved to desktops -- unlike, say, Skype, which went in the other direction -- so its service has always known about message status on other devices.
Actually, this is sort of a second release for Viber Out, as a testing version was made available last month to help out with the recovery effort in the Philippines following the huge typhoon hit that killed over 10,000 people. The service was offered for free in that country for the rescue effort.
The release this week of Viber Out is part of the update to version 4.1, which also includes new additions to the company's other monetization effort, its Sticker Market. Stickers, which are popular in Asia, are large, animated emoticons that add flavor to a conversation.
Stickers are also available in various forms on several social apps/platforms, such as Facebook and Path, and Vibe announced in October that it was selling stickers, following the path set by other messaging services that first built a user base as a free service and later added paid options, such as stickers. Vibe began offering free stickers to its 200 million registered users at the end of 2012, and now it has hundreds of stickers, including ones using licensed content, for $1.99 each.