People often talk of the need for someone to come along and disrupt the established mobile carriers – but what if the carriers disrupted themselves? France Telecom’s Orange appears to be doing that with the launch its new Libon app.
Libon is essentially a mobile service in an app, offering free HD-quality VoIP calls, free SMS-style IM messaging between users and the Apple-esque ‘visual voicemail’ service that users of Orange’s previous Libon app will already be used to.
What’s surprising here is that Orange is offering essentially the kind of service that some think could replace much of what mobile carriers currently offer. As we gradually move onto LTE-powered networks, the idea of a mobile service based entirely on a data connection seems entirely possible. What’s more surprising is that Orange isn’t limiting this service to its own subscribers – anyone can download the iOS app and start using it. An Android version will follow in a few weeks’ time.
Libon is available as both a free and paid-for service. The free option allows you to make no-cost calls to other Libon users, send text messages to them and use Libon’s excellent voicemail service (see our review from January, when it was called ON Voicefeed) to replace your carrier’s own voicemail service. Pay out $2.99 per month (€2.69 or £1.99), and you get additional premium features, including the ability to call any contacts over VoIP for free from within the app even if they’re not Libon users, email alerts when you receive voicemails, unlimited personalized voicemail greetings and more.
New users get the Premium service for free for 30 days, including 60 minutes of free calls to landlines and mobiles around the world and no in-app ads.
Offering a super-cheap, data-based service that could potentially replace traditional services offered by mobile networks is a bold move for such a network to make, but the fact is that if Orange doesn’t do it, someone else will. You could argue that integrated VoIP and IM apps have been around for some time, but where Libon is different is that it isn’t designed to supplement your phone’s built-in features – it can actually replace them as long as you have a data connection. The closest thing prior to this that springs to mind is UK network Three offering Skype as a standard with its handsets. We’ve previously argued that Google could modify its Voice telephony service into exactly this kind of offering to successfully launch it outside the US, but it’s yet to do so.
Libon is live today in 95 countries as a free download for iOS.
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