Orange has released the first version of its Libon app for Android smartphones and is adding new functionality to the iOS version.
Libon appeared for iOS in November last year, giving Orange a clear competitor to so-called over-the-top (OTT) applications such as Skype and WhatsApp. Like T-Mobile USA’s Bobsled and Telefonica’s Tu Me, the app provided free HD calls and messaging to other users of the same platform — regardless of their carrier — as well as voicemail transcription.
Now it’s available on Android as well as iOS. According to Giles Corbett of the Orange Vallée R&D department, the Android version is “completely integrated” into the native OS in a way that isn’t possible with iOS (see also, Facebook Home). “For instance, it integrates all of your incoming and outgoing GSM calls and SMSs in all of the conversations,” he noted, adding that setup, including the redirection of voicemail, could all be controlled from within the app.
On the iOS side, meanwhile, the new version — to be set live on Tuesday — will remain a step ahead of its Android counterpart, with the integration of audio chat (as in, conducting an asynchronous conversation using audio messages) and photo messaging. That said, Corbett said this functionality would be added to the Android version in the coming weeks.
I asked Corbett how Orange’s OTT efforts were keeping pace with developments such as Telefonica’s Tu Go, which gives O2 U.K. contract customers a Wi-Fi-capable app through which they can make and receive calls and texts using their existing number, with charges being integrated with their standard bill.
Corbett responded by pointing out that Libon creates a similar experience for customers of certain Orange operators. For example, customers of Orange’s low-cost Sosh brand in France can use Libon to call landlines and mobile numbers on “advantageous terms”, with call recipients seeing the caller’s standard number and — for calls to certain countries, at least — with charges coming out of their standard allowance.
Meanwhile, Orange Poland is to adopt a similar strategy, and by the end of June Libon will be integrated with core Orange services in 5 countries. For those who just want to use it as an OTT app alongside core services from other carriers, availability stretches to 95 countries. “It’s a way for Orange to reach and explore new customer bases,” Corbett said.