Fring enables free 3G video calls to mobile phones, PCs

Fring now allows video calls to PCs and other phones, over a 3G connection to boot. But call quality doesn’t match Facetime.

The problem with Apple’s iPhone 4 Facetime commercial is that not everyone has an iPhone 4, and that’s just not happening.

Fortunately there’s Fring, which now allows video calls to PCs and other phones, over a 3G connection to boot.

Fring is a free VoIP and video calling service, letting you make free calls to anyone who also has the Fring software.

Through a powerful set of add-ons, Fring can also connect to Skype and Gtalk, among other services.

So if you’ve got Skype on a PC, you can talk via Webcam to someone with Fring on the iPhone 4. Android and iPhone users can incorporate video into their spirited debates on platform superiority.

Apple’s native Facetime video chat app can place calls only between two iPhone 4s, for now at least. Facetime is an open standard, but we’ll have to see if any other platforms support it.

And then there’s the 3G support. Right now, Facetime only allows video calls over Wi-Fi, and that’s not going to change until next year.

If iPhone 4 owners want to video call someone from the ballgame or the bar, Fring’s their only option.

Which begs the question: Why did Apple allow this bandwidth-eating Fring update to hit the App Store?

My worst guess is that the danger of excessive bandwidth consumption isn’t as steep with Fring simply because it’s not loaded onto the phone by default… [Next Page]

More likely, I think, is that Fring doesn’t pose a great 3G threat because the call quality doesn’t match Facetime.

I haven’t tried it myself, but as Gizmodo notes, Fring is prone to lag, jitters and drops in voice quality.

A Twitter search for “Fring quality” turns up similar remarks. I’m just speculating, but perhaps Fring doesn’t demand as much data as Facetime.

And that’s fine. As a free app that goes where Facetime won’t, Fring doesn’t need to be perfect. It just has to work.

6 fabulous mobile apps

Now that we’ve talked about Fring, let’s acquaint you with six other mobile apps – some of which can be added to the iPhone’s home screen as a bookmark.

Whenever a great Web app comes along, like YouTube’s revamped mobile site, it’s amusing to glance in Cupertino’s direction and wonder if Apple’s worried.

After all, the company’s got a good thing going with the App Store, and any polished Web app that lives outside the walled garden could be considered a threat.

Truth is, Apple doesn’t openly show fear of Web apps. In fact, Apple’s Web site embraces the concept with an entire section of Web-based games and tools.

But most of them aren’t very good, and there are less than 5000 to choose from, while the App Store is approaching 300,000 apps.

Nonetheless, I’ve surveyed the scene for some of the best iPhone Web apps around. Some of them can be added to the iPhone’s home screen as a bookmark, running in full-screen mode, while others are just solid mobile-optimized websites. But try them out, and you might wonder if Apple’s worried, too… [Next Page]

Google Voice
No list of iPhone web apps would be complete without Google Voice. It’s the quintessential Apple vs. developer story: Google makes native iPhone app, gets rejected, builds capable HTML 5 version instead. A native app probably would have been better, as this version is missing features, but at least it’s free of Apple’s grasp.


Am I the only one that doesn’t like the bloated presentation of Facebook’s native iPhone app? The Web version has fewer features — you can’t upload photos or chat, for example — but that’s not a bad thing. Facebook’s Web app has just the basics, including status updates, photos, profiles, messages and events. It’s kind of like Facebook Lite, before Facebook killed it.


The App Store is loaded with to-do applications, but the Checklist Web app is simple and free, with offline support and no ads. Just type in your agenda, check off as you go and e-mail the remaining items to your spouse. What more could you want? Get it here.


Like a smarter version of Yelp, NextStop looks at where you are and recommends fun things to do. It’s ideal for travelers who haven’t planned their whole day out or folks who are just plain bored. As Robert Scoble reported, NextStop prefers the HTML5 approach because they can release updates immediately, and can refer users to other websites without booting them out of the native app or embedding a separate browser.

Parking Assistant

This isn’t the cleanest app around, but if you need to find a parking lot, it gets the job done and costs nothing, unlike similar App Store offerings. Parking Assistant uses the OpenStreetMap project to show nearby lots in two colors, red for paid lots and green for free ones, thus confirming that there are no free parking lots near my apartment.

Games Galore

Web-based iPhone games are okay for cheap thrills, just don’t expect anything elaborate like a first-person shooter. Some of my favorites: Jungle Frog, Hurricane, Meteor Rain and, of course, Google Pac-Man.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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