Fring, a multi way mobile video chat service, updated its Android client today in Google Play yesterday and has users screaming. The main change was a new authentication procedure from username/password combination to an actual mobile phone number authentication. This means multiple device installations were broken and people need your phone number to connect. From their updated listing in Google Play we find
VOIP, video, chat, call, group, IM, free, free calls, cheap, voice, SIP, dialerFree Calls and Group Calls: Voice, Video & Texting
** New! Phone number registration instead of username /password **
While many immediately started dropping reviews in the Google Play store to one star, others made an excellent point of privacy and usability. Here are some samples from the User Reviews section:
- Sorry for now. I’m going to use other voice call services after 3 years of my fring usages. I was loved it.
- I don’t feel comfortable linking my phone number. No longer going to use Fringe.
- Bad update. I prefer having a real username and password to having this linked to my number. I have multiple devices and now I can’t use this. Revert please!
- Waiting for friends to update in order to communicate with them? Isn’t that a bit heavy-handed?
- Just 8 months back I rated this app 5 star and gave excellent comments.Everything changed now after this latest update. The app is not the same anymore.
Even I previously reviewed Fring and sang praises about the quality of the multi-way chat on a mobile device and even posted a screenshot of the reviving TheSocialGeeks podcast crew as shown in the image on the right.
While the quality of the service remains the same in this update, the ability to interact with your contacts has greatly changed. You must wait for users to upgrade, contacts automatically sync from your phone with the new permissions and some have lost contacts all together. A few users are reporting issues with their phones or even getting it to uninstall.
They have also apparently raised the requirement that you have a minimum balance in your paid account to use the SIP features. A new $3 minimum has been enforced where users could previously carry just enough credit to make land line type calls with Fring. I can understand how they want to simplify credit management, much like Skype does, but it seems that users that has money cannot use it unless they add more.
Anthony Farrior (Wild5tar on Twitter) has made a quick YouTube video showing exactly how his new interface changed. He does not see the video interaction at all. Here is what I found after playing with it forever.
- The registration system was broken. You could not get a confirmation or it gave errors.
- The system for using your phone number removes multiple device support and changes privacy for the application
- Until it syncs your contacts, the options for many of the features like video calling are not available to you
- If the user has not updated to the new version the video is not available.
I went to the Fring blog and found no mention of the update, issues or communication from the team there. I then headed to Fring support and managed to find a new video they did a few days ago showing how registration now works.
They show the input of your phone number and the SMS you must receive. It also sees the previous install and then migrates your existing contact list over. Some users above are stating it is also syncing and sending them back to Fring each time the app starts.
I would personally hold off from updating to this release until some fixes can be applied and we get some more answers from the Fring team.