Home Fring: Cross Platform Mobile IM

Fring: Cross Platform Mobile IM

Israeli mobile startup Fring is a great way to use Skype, Google Talk and MSN Messenger IM on your phone. This weekend the company added AIM and Yahoo messenger to its offerings for Symbian and UIQ handsets.

Fring is a finalist in the Crunchies awards and has raised more than $12 million in VC funding. Its primary competitor is generally said to be Nimbuzz. I like Fring a lot, but I hope that the company can spend some of its money fixing some serious problems I experienced with the service (more on that below).

Some number of readers here probably use Meebo by iPhone but I know I am not alone in not having an iPhone. For the rest of us, Fring is worth a look.

Why would you want to do mobile IM? I didn’t feel inclined to do it myself – until I tried for the first time. Now I am deeply grateful for the ability to ping the boss on Skype IM without firing up my laptop, or to check in about upcoming appointments with GTalk contacts while in the grocery store. IM enables a very different kind of conversation than is possible with voice or email – and it’s really nice to be able to have those kinds of conversations on a mobile device.

In addition to the aforementioned services, Fring also lets you sign into Twitter, ICQ and SIP accounts. I haven’t found any of those to be particularly useful. The ability to make voice calls by VOIP using only your phone’s data plan instead of your cell minutes is also a big part of the company’s value proposition that I haven’t felt the need to use at all.

The basic ability to IM using Skype and Google Talk, though, is something I am very grateful for. Perhaps you will find Fring useful for more than this.

Now for the Bad News

I’ve got a long list of complaints about Fring, starting with the fact that AIM and Yahoo! aren’t available on my Windows Mobile phone. Perhaps that will be fixed soon. Perhaps I should get a Symbian phone like so much of the rest of the world.

It’s not very easy to download Fring from the mobile interface. On Windows Mobile, I tried with both IE and Opera and wasn’t able to do it. The web interface will let you identify your handset and will send you an SMS to a download link.

I have had my phone completely frozen by Fring more than a few times. So frozen I couldn’t even turn it off without removing the battery.

For some reason, conversation with some contacts results in either no messages going through or my own messages being sent back to me under their names. I don’t know what that’s about.

There doesn’t appear to be any archiving capability. IMing without archiving the conversations makes me nervous – that’s one of the things I love most about Adium on my desktop – the ability to save and search conversations archived.

Those are some pretty substantial issues! In fact, as far as I’m concerned – I’d say that if Fring is the state of the art in mobile IM, then mobile IM is in pretty elementary stages. None the less – I’m finding that any mobile IM is vastly superior to none at all.

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