Fring (free, iOS/Android/Symbian/Windows Mobile)
As well as cheaper calls to landlines and mobiles, Fring also plays nice with Facebook, Twitter, MSN Messenger and GTalk. Skype support was dropped last year which is a mild annoyance, but a little competition is always good in the long run. Let the VoIP battle rage on.
BlackBerry Messenger (free, Blackberry OS)
BlackBerry lost some of its sheen during the recent hailstorm of Android and Windows Phone 7 devices, but BBM still remains an enviable jewel in RIM’s crown. Real-time chat, video, photo, voice, music and location sharing have created a new global network of messaging addicts. Rumours of BBM being ported to Android and iOS devices can only fan the flames.
FaceFlow (free, PC/Mac/Any web browser)
Imagine the offspring of Skype and Chat Roulette. FaceFlow runs on Flash and works in any web browser, so you don’t need to install any software and, unlike Skype, offers free conference calling. An updateable contact list provides useful functionality for when you’re bored of semi-naked strangers popping up at random.
Viber (free, iOS)
Free calls don’t get much simpler than this. Download Viber, get your mates to do the same, and enjoy unlimited free calls over 3G or Wi-Fi no matter where they are in the world. Free SMS messaging is in the pipeline, as are apps for Android and Blackberry devices. Also void of the pesky ads that are soon to plague Skype.
FaceTime (free/£0.60, iOS/Mac)
With FaceTime, Apple seemed to claim the invention of video calling. Untrue, but there’s no denying it's a very polished service. The 60p charge for the Mac software seems a bit bizarre, but it’s a small price to pay for seamless HD video chatting between Macs, iPhones and the newly announced iPad 2. The downside is you need a jailbreak app to enable FaceTime over 3G, as it’s currently Wi-Fi only.
… and 5 reasons to stick with Skype
- friends and family more likely to be on it
- support for Facebook integration
- share photos without having to send/receive
- paid-for voicemail with SMS conversion
- Smart TVs will likely get Skype first