Skype, Viber and WhatsApp have new competition in the form of a smartphone app launched by France Telecom’s Orange mobile brand. The app is the first in seemingly a line of many which are enabling users to place free calls and send text messages without having to use the services of a data carrier. Even though the data operators have been charging reasonable prices for their plans and packages, free is still the better option as far as the customers are concerned.
According to the initial reports, the app has been named Libon and is compatible with the iPhone. Any iPhone user can download the app and start calling and texting for free. In view of the other options already present in the form of Skype and WhatsApp, it does seem a bit redundant on part of Orange to put so much effort into creating an app for this purpose.
As expected, the move by Orange stands to be criticized by the data operators. When the customers are able to call and send texts for free, why would they want to pay for it? The quality is not bad and the app is quite easy to use. Giles Corbett, the developer who spearheaded the Libon project, has stated that the reason people switch to the free apps is because the available alternatives aren’t up to the mark.
He further stated that the data carriers need to provide compelling services to counter the threat posed by the apps available free of cost. Orange isn’t the first telecom operator from Europe to launch such an app. It follows the precedent of companies like Telefonica which also launched a similar app in May this year, titled Tu Me.
Texting and making calls from Libon is absolutely free of cost but Orange is going to charge customers for email versions and transcripts of voicemail. In addition, Orange has also announced that it is going to make the app compatible with the Android OS as early as the beginning of next year. That means that the company would be able to target a larger segment of the market in the near future.
Whether this translates to actual profits for Orange is something which remains to be seen. In the meantime, the bottom line for several data carriers is expected to suffer as more such free apps become available on the market for smartphone users around the globe.
[Image via jodepot]