SMS is the new black

A review of mass market mobile apps

Tuesday Feature: Too good to be Tru?

Posted by Admin on December 16, 2008

A little later in the day than usual (but it means you can enjoy it on Wednesday too), here’s this week’s Tuesday Feature.

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Hot on the heals of our last two Tuesday Features we’ve scored ourselves a mobile social networking hat-trick with a look at mobile messaging firm Truphone.


truphone1Truphone is a mobile VoIP (mVoIP) service which, for the everyday user (who this blog represents), is a service which lets you make free calls and instant messages from your phone.

The company rose to prominence in the mid-2007 when, as a little know start-up (David), it took to court and toppled T-Mobile (Goliath) with allegations of unfair play. The operator was ordered to stop blocks on Truphone extensions and allow calls to its network from Truphone users. A huge dose of high-profile publicity was created in the process.

Fast forward 18 months and Truphone remains a leader of the mVoIP pack, along with long-term rival fring, but how does it shape up now?

The Service

Truphone enables peer-to-peer (P2P)calling and real-time instant messaging (IM) using a range clients like Skype, MSN, Yahoo, GoogleTalk and the company’s own client. Users of relatively unknown SIP (session in protocol) providers like Gizmo and VoIPstunt for low-cost calling can also use these accounts through Truphone.

The service uses a mobile web connection (choosing Wi-Fi where/when available) to route calls and message over the web in the same way that a PC-based client, like MSN, does. Whilst SMS is still very much king of quick communication, IM on mobile is becoming increasingly more popular as use of mobile and mobile internet becomes more like the everyday PC experience.

The service is billed as the ideal accompaniment to an existing phone deal as it does not require a new number, SIM card and change to setup, in the company’s own words:

“It’s a bit like having a separate pay-as-you-go phone on your current mobile – you just top up your credit online and use Truphone when you want to make low-cost internet calls.”

Truphone has also gone a step further and introduced a Tru Saver package which allows calls to USA/Canadian-based mobile phones at less than 1.5 cents per minute. With Skype-out and SIP calling allowing for low-cost calls to mobile, the Tru Saver package is clearly aimed at catering from international calls to mobile devices. This is a particularly attractive package as many countries popular with ex-pats, like Thailand for example, have particularly inadequate landline services. In this case calling a mobile phone is more convenient, better quality experience and now not expensive thanks to initiatives like Tru Saver and Jajah (a service we will endeavour to feature in the future).

Handset Compatibility

Although Truphone lacks the vast handset support of fring, the service is available for iPhone (first and second generation), Nokia N and E-Series devices and BlackBerry smartphones. This selection is deliberate as Truphone’s market is the tech savvy user who naturally prefers high-end feature phone. Hence the service supports such devices to cover its target market. Additionally it is available, for the first time, on a non-cellular device, the (second generation) iPod Touch.

Truphone on the Touch offers the same user experience (calls and IM) as the iPhone client but the device must be connected to Wi-Fi to operate.

This is a particularly neat offering which could attract a new demographic of users to Truphone and the concept of mVoIP itself (see further reading from VoIP expert Andy Abramson here).

The Verdict

We like free calls, we like instant messaging, we use Skype, MSN and GoogleTalk on a regular basis and have a high-end phone. Alongside fring, Truphone is ideal vehicle to maintain our channels of communications whilst on the go.

However we are not the average consumer. Whilst he/she/it is becoming increasingly tech savvy, the average consumer is not ready for mVoIP. He uses his phone to talk, text and snack on (read get) news/entertainment to fill downtime. His user experience caters for all of his communications needs on a mobile device. IM and VoIP are a little extravagant for mainstream users and although they would complement his existing experience, are a little beyond him right now.

Of course those looking to make international calls or use IM from their mobile are perfectly accommodated by Truphone making it a worthy (software) addition to the phone. Call quality is inferior to that of a regular mobile call, but this fact is always disclosed by Truphone and accepted as an ongoing project for improvement.

Truphone is possibly ahead of the curve for the average mobile user, but if you’re the sort to have a high-end device, likes to tinker with new apps, uses IM a lot or wants to make international calls then give Truphone a spin, it’s free after all. And if you have an iPod Touch and regular Wi-Fi access, load up Truphone and get in touch with your thoughts.


2 Responses to “Tuesday Feature: Too good to be Tru?”

  1. […] On Mobile TeamOne is the company’s fledging mobile offering, which aims to take the fixed line experience and adapt it for the mobile phone. Currently ProcessOne is championing its iPhone application but TeamOne is also available on Symbian-running, Nokia E60 series phones, and the iPod touch (when it rains it pours). […]

  2. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

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