calling Stories March 29, 2016

Tim Cook Snap

Snapchat is changing how you communicate with friends in a major way through what it’s calling Chat 2.0. The social network says it focused two years ago on making chatting more like face-to-face conversation with features like letting you know when your friends were present and “listening” to what you were typing, and the latest Snapchat update refocuses on the 1-to-1 chat aspect of the app with new features around voice and video calling plus stickers and more. How you watch Stories is also getting a change in the new update.

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calling Stories January 12, 2016

Skype bringing free group video calling to iPhone and iPad

Skype today announced that it’s bringing free group video calling— a feature it’s long had available on the desktop—to mobile devices including iPhone and iPad users.

Yes, it really has been a decade since Skype changed the way people connect with their loved ones. 6 years ago, we innovated again with one-to-one video calling on mobile phones. Today, we are excited to announce the next evolution – group video calling on Android, iPhone, iPad and Windows 10 Mobile.

The feature will officially launch in the coming weeks, but you can pre-register through Skype’s website here.

And keep an eye out for updates to the Skype for iPhone and Skype for iPad apps. In the latest update to the apps earlier this month, Skype also introduced to the ability to “Send video messages to groups directly from group chats.”

calling Stories April 27, 2015

T-Mobile, Sprint, TWC make calling & texting Nepal free, waive bills to aid earthquake relief efforts

Update: Sprint and Time Warner Cable too.

Many tech companies are attempting to help victims of the devastating Nepal earthquake this week and the latest is T-Mobile. The carrier announced that it’s making calling and texting Nepal free in order to aid relief efforts:

In the wake of the devastating Nepalese earthquake, many T-Mobile customers are trying to stay in touch with their family and friends in Nepal.  T-Mobile is making this easier by waiving and crediting fees for all calls and text messages to and from Nepal from Saturday, April 25 through Saturday, May 16.  Calling and texting to and from Nepal without charges applies to all postpaid and prepaid customers of T-Mobile, MetroPCS, GoSmart Mobile and Walmart Family Mobile with international calling.

T-Mobile also notes that its customers can text to various charities to make a donation that will be charged to their mobile bill:

  • Save the Children – Text NEPAL to 20222 to donate $10 to Save the Children
  • UNICEF – Text NEPAL to 864233 to donate $10 to UNICEF
  • World Vision – Text NEPAL to 777444 to donate $10 to World Vision

Google and Apple have also launched efforts to aid people in Nepal impacted by the earthquake.

calling Stories February 9, 2015

Skype for iPhone updates the dialer, reintroduces URI support for other apps

Microsoft is out today with its latest version of Skype for iPhone, version 5.10, as it continues to add refinements and features to the overhauled version of its app first released last year.

The new version of Skype for iPhone highlights the ability to save contacts from the app’s phone dialer just like the native Phone app on iOS. You can also save contacts to Skype from the recent call list starting with this version, and Microsoft touts improved chat notification reliability as well.

Finally, Microsoft is reintroducing support for Skype URIs which let other developers include interactions with Skype directly in their own apps including features like calling and messaging.

As long as the Skype app is installed on an iPhone, when a user taps on a Skype name or phone number, the URI will open the Skype app to connect a call or send a message*, making it faster than ever to reach friends, family or businesses.

For example, if you’re browsing restaurant options on an app or mobile website that utilizes Skype URIs, tapping on the phone number would launch Skype so you could call and make a reservation.

If you heavily rely on communicating with Skype frequently, this means you should see deeper Skype integration in other third-party apps in the future.

Skype for iPhone version 5.10 is available now for free on the App Store.

calling Stories November 4, 2014

Textplus moves on to Nextplus, adds improved WiFi calling/texting, GIFs, and more

Popular texting and calling app Textplus, which is a more affordable alternative to a standard carrier plan, branched off to a new app called Nextplus today. The new app still has the same texting and calling core (coming soon), but is it now optimized for WiFi networks. The developers tell us that many people want to use unlocked older iPhones (without carrier plans) to text and make phone calls, so Nextplus is a solid alternative to signing up for a normal plan from a carrier.

The new app has also (finally) been modernized with GIF images and stickers support. The iPhone and iPad app is free to download and calling/texting between Nextplus/Textplus users is free. If you want to call a landline or a non-Nextplus user, Nextplus offers some competitive rates per minute, with calls to the U.S., U.K., Mexico, Canada, and Australia costing 2 cents per minute.

If you’re an iOS user, making calls between iOS devices via FaceTime Audio is a great solution, but Nextplus is a great option if you’re looking to talk affordably to landlines and other platforms.

calling Stories July 29, 2014

Earlier this month, Microsoft-owned Skype rolled out a group video calling feature to Windows tablets. The free video calling allows for calls with up to ten people, and integrates with Skype on the desktop, which has supported group video calling since April.

Today, Skype tells us that the group video calling feature will be coming to all of its mobile platforms in the future, which likely includes iOS and Android:

We’re excited about Skype group video calling and are working to bring it to more of our platforms. In the future, we’ll be enabling group video calling for all our users across more platforms – at no cost

Unfortunately, the company could not yet provide a more specific rollout timeframe. Skype has been rapidly releasing new products over the past several months, with a major redesign of the Skype iPhone app arriving a couple of months ago.

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calling Stories June 2, 2014

In addition to announcing new integration between iOS and Mac OS X with AirDrop support and its new Handoff feature, Apple announced today that it’s bringing SMS and phone calls to the Mac. That means that you can now have your SMS text messages and phone calls from your iPhone arrive as notifications on your Mac. Users will be able to respond to messages and even use the Mac as a speaker phone in order to complete a phone call. Previously iOS users only had access to iMessage messages and FaceTime on the Mac. expand full story

calling Stories April 3, 2014

Facebook Messenger for iPhone updated with free calling support

Just a week after Facebook added group management to its Messenger app, the social network is out with yet another update to the messaging service: free calls for everyone.

The feature allows you to call your Facebook friends who also have the app over WiFi for free (you can call over cellular as well, but this uses data, of course). Free calling is especially beneficial to users who communicate internationally as calling rates tend to get pricey in that area.

Messaging threads now include a phone icon for prompting calls from the app, and the actual phone user interface resembles the native iOS Phone UI prior to iOS 7.1 introducing a tweaked design to the Phone app.

Facebook-owned Whatsapp is poised to introduce VOIP support in an upcoming update as well. Screenshots of Whatsapp in-app calling leaked earlier this year.

Facebook Messenger 4.1 is available for free on the App Store.

calling Stories February 24, 2014

WhatsApp plans to add Facebook Messenger-like voice calling features by next quarter

Just about everyone in the tech industry is talking about the $19B Facebook/Whatsapp deal, so what better time to announce new features coming soon to the service. TechCrunch reports that WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum announced at Mobile World Congress today that the app will gain voice calling functionality sometime in Q2 of this year:

“We use the least amount of bandwidth and we use the hell out of it,” he said. “We will focus on simplicity.” Voice will come to Android and iOS first and then following on some Nokia and BlackBerry phones, he added.

The report adds that WhatsApp will also soon be working with some carrier partners:

While WhatsApp, as an OTT service, may appear like one of the companies that is attacking carriers, it is also working with them. The first partnership will be with e-plus to offer special tariffs to access the app, Koum said today. Interestingly, disrupting the current mobile communications economy has put WhatsApp right back into the kinds of services that built out that economy in the first place — in today’s case, voice.

Facebook of course already offers voice calling in some countries, but it’s unclear if the new WhatsApp feature will be integrated with the Facebook voice features. WhatsApp already offers users the ability to send short recorded voice messages as pictured above).

Despite the plans for new features, Koum reiterated that, “There are no planned changes and we will continue to do what we set out to do, even after the acquisition closes.” That, he said, includes “no marketing.”

calling Stories December 9, 2013

VoIP app Viber announces Viber Out, allowing cheap outgoing calls to any number worldwide

Viber, the popular cross-platform VoIP app, released Viber 4.1 for iOS today. The new app introduces a new calling feature called Viber Out. This service allows users on any supported Viber platform to place outgoing calls to any landline or mobile number in the world at rates lower than many other similar offerings.

Viber Out also allows users to use their real phone number as their caller ID, meaning the party on the other end will see your number as if the call was coming from the users phone, so there’s no need for your contacts to save a new VoIP number in order to recognize you.

Viber 4.1 is rolling out for iPhone now on the iOS App Store.

calling Stories October 18, 2013

Google Hangouts for iOS adds outgoing and incoming voice calls through Google Voice

The Google Hangouts app for iPhone and iPad got a significant update to version 1.3 today. The update introduces Google Voice integration that allows incoming calls to your Google Voice number and outgoing calls to U.S. and Canadian numbers. Also included in the new version is the ability to see which friends are currently online, support for animated GIFs, and a fix to keep the app from stopping your music when a message comes in.

The update is available for free to all users on the iOS App Store now.

calling Stories March 22, 2012

With the introduction of a new LTE iPad, there is no shortage of rumors about a 4G iPhone not being far behind. We saw LTE in iOS code strings before the new Pad was introduced, but it was only speculation whether those were for iPhone, the new 4G iPad, or both.

Today, code strings in iOS 5.1 discovered by Cydia developer Krishna Sagar contain the text: “Enabling 4G will end your phone call. Are you sure you want to enable 4G?” It also has various other mentions of enabling and disabling 4G when on phone calls and FaceTime. While most of the references to 4G in the strings could be for the iPad, references to calling features is pretty solid evidence that Apple is at the very least testing a LTE iPhone.

AT&T recently began calling its HSPA+ service 4G on iPhone 4S, but switching that on and off would not disable a phone call or a FaceTime chat.

There is also a full reference to FaceTime over 4G in the code strings (below):

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