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A great idea!
Fring, which launched back in 2007, was a great idea to fill an excellent need in the market. It is a cool looking and integrated interface to handle all the communication needs of your phone over an internet connection. Yes, that means that Fring can make calls and send text messages while bypassing the fees of your phone provider--at least theoretically.
Problem is, does it work? Why would the networks allow this?
But first, let's take a look at the application itself and then we'll discuss functionality.
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Download and Setup
Once downloaded, the setup is really easy. Upon boot up you'll be given an option to choose a User-ID and password followed by a screen to enter some personal info. Then you'll be able to log into a number of different social network sites, all of which will be integrated into Fring. This is all very smoothly done and easy.
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Look and Interface
Honestly, I think the look and feel of Fring is top-notch. I really like the color scheme with the various shades of green. It gives it a nice friendly feel. Also the way some of the things feel drawn in is a nice touch--and fitting with the little cute Fring logo. In all the theme works well and is consistently adorable.
The interface is rather simple and straightforward. All of your contacts are in one long list that you can easily search through. The ads are relatively non intrusive and easily ignored. The profile page is nicely setup and very clean looking. Generally a good setup.
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Ok, so this is the problem: I have no doubt about the fact that Fring can work and that it is a great program. But the truth is, it doesn't really work. And the reason it doesn't work is not their fault but rather the fault of blocking by other programs. The main one is Skype, which just pulled out of Fring this July. Once Skype left then all the free phone calls left as well. The abilities of the program just fell through the floor. Most importantly, the much touted video calls became a lot more difficult.
Some things still work. For instance, Google Talk is still functional for any of your friends who have that. But, of course, they have to get Google Talk as well and if you want to talk with them on their phone (for free) they also have to have Fring or another program with Google Talk.
It appears at first that you can make calls to other cell phones out of Fring. This is not the case despite the fact that the contacts are all listed in Fring. When you try to call one a warning comes up letting you know that normal carrier charges will be applied. Then when you make the call it switches you over to your normal call menu as if you just made the call without Fring.
Also, if you don't have a phone with a dual-camera and sufficient speed then video calls are also inaccessible.
When you do call someone through one of the available channels it can work great. It's just a matter of finding anyone you can call normally.
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So what is it really good for??
It really is a shame that I have to say this because the idea is great and the interface is just adorable--but the program itself just does a bunch of things that, if you have an Android phone, you just don't need. This is why I wouldn't recommend even bothering with the program. Fring was important as a concept but by the time its implementation occurred it actually just duplicates functions you already have on any Android phone. Let's walk through them for a minute:
- Free phone calls and text messaging: If you have an Android phone chances are you have an unlimited data plan. If you have an unlimited data plan, chances are you have unlimited mobile-to-mobile and unlimited text messaging--and probably don't make many calls to land lines. Even if you don't have these, does Fring offer a solution? Not unless you get a SIP (a form of VoiP) client which might also cost money or if your friend also has Fring.
- Integration of multiple social networking and IM services: This is perhaps where Fring might seem attractive. It's cool to have all that stuff in one place where you can easily use your Twitter, AIM, Windows Live, and Yahoo accounts. Except that most Android phones have easy interfaces for this built in as well that function just as easily.
- Video Calls: Ok, so this is the only place where I say you might find it worthwhile to use Fring. However you still have to make sure the other person has Fring as well and there is no telling when networks will make decisions to cut it off. Although, unless you have one of the latest generation of phones this is not something relevant to you yet; hopefully by the time you get one the dust will settle on the video calling on cell phones and a clear solution will be worked out.
- International Calls: This, honestly, is the main thing that I'd suggest getting the application for. Because it is a IP based phone system if you have someone that you want to call that is overseas you should have them get Fring as well and then use the program to call them.
I really do hope the networks open up a place for Fring. I think it could be a really advantageous application. However, in its currently crippled state I have to say that its not quite worth working with. Hopefully this will change soon. For now, if you are trying to have video calls or international calls get your friends to get it as well and use it--otherwise don't mess with it quite yet.