Developer: fringland Ltd.
Price: free Download on the App Store
Fring, the integrated IM client, launched today for the iPhone. Before getting into Fring specifics, pay attention to what happens at 46seconds on the above video. What is mentioned (an I have confirmed) is that if you hold down the sleep (top) button of Fring for a second and then release, the phone will power off, but you still will receive alert messages when pinged by a Fring IM client (such as AIM or Skype). In other words, this is the very beginning of background processes on the iPhone.
Now, Fring is, as we mentioned a Trillian style IM consolidator for mobile devices. Currently, the list of IM "add-ons" supported are:
From my perspective, the three most important are Skype, MSN and Google Talk. While the implementations of AIM and Yahoo allow for text chatting, you can now actually make 100% free phone calls to other Skype, MSN, or Google Talk users on your iPhone. The era of free VOIP cell phone calls has arrived.
What if the person you are trying to reach is not on one of those three services? Well, as long as you are on a good wifi, you can use the very inexpensive SkypeOut service built into Fring to reach them. The only caveat: as some reviewers on the App Store have noticed, SkypeOut often doesn't always connect. Also, the UI is a bit more confusing than the alternative UK based "TruPhone" VOIP app iPhone. We liked TruPhone, but the pricing was far from free, as discussed in our TruPhone review.
The UI for Fring is clean, but could be improved. For example, the buddy lists on Fring places first all your available buddies, second your busy buddies, third your offline buddies, and then fourth all your contacts -- useful for SkypeOut purposes. It would be nice if Fring incorporated a way of accessing that contact list without having to scroll several pages down. On the good side, however, the Fring website has extensive documentation on how to use the product - something other apps would do well to emulate.
We haven't finished playing around with Fring, but its clear to us at this stage that the company means business.