Orange has launched Libon, an OTT communication app for iOS, which enables users to make voice calls or send text messages to other Libon users for free, via wi-fi or 3G connections.
The app, which is available in 95 countries, works across networks. It's available in a free or Premium version, paid for through a regular subscription, which adds extra features – including advanced voicemail functionality, which can be used to set customised greetings for individuals or groups, or deliver text transcription of voicemails – as well as unlimited cloud storage, and an hour of international calling every month to landline or mobile numbers of non-Libon users.
Grasping the nettle
With operators having spent the last few years scratching their heads over how to respond to the popularity of OTT services such as iMessage, WhatsApp and BBM, it's good to see an operator really grasping the nettle – though it's worth noting that UK operator 3 started offering unlimited Skype access to its subscribers way back in 2009, which raised a few eyebrows at the time, though it's all gone a bit quiet on that front more rcently.
Orange really seems to be going for it, with a full feature set, even on the free version – the app groups together conversations by contact, across messaging, call history and voicemail, and also gives users the option to share their location data with contacts. Presumably it's hoping that, if Libon becomes popular, the subscription fee – and assorted other in-app payments – will help supplement its income.
An Android version of the app is set to follow in Q1, 2013, according to Orange.
Orange has also unveiled a Facebook tie-in, Party Call, a service which enables users to call their friends, one at a time or in groups, across the social network.
Party Call is an entirely separate service, which can be used on either mobile or desktop. Rather than using VoIP, like Libon, the service connects directly to Orange's voice network, TechCrunch reports.