VoxOx, an all-in-one phone, fax, instant-messaging, text-messaging, and file-sending application for desktops, is now offering an app for iOS. While the mobile app doesn’t have all the features that the desktop application has, it could be useful for those who juggle lots of communication channels.
Like its desktop cousin, the new iOS app, named VoxOx Call, attempts to bring together the features of many other products. At first glance, it looks most like Google Voice. New users can select a free U.S. number, or purchase a low-cost number in Canada (something Google Voice doesn’t offer); number porting is coming.
Surprisingly, VoxOx Call doesn’t make calls using VoIP. Instead, it’s a callback service that connects both parties using standard lines. The provider explains its decision this way:
“Most VoIP calling apps rely heavily on a user’s bandwidth, which can quickly deplete a mobile data plan or result in unreliable call quality. The VoxOx Call app utilizes the traditional telephone network to initiate a call, but does so at VoxOx’s cheap worldwide calling rates, ensuring low cost and reliability. A user simply dials a contact’s phone number, and then waits for their phone to ring with that person on the line. Instead of the call being routed as an outbound call for which a mobile carrier may charge toll fees, VoxOx turns it into an inbound call, which in most countries is toll free. This allows a mobile user to pay only pennies per minute for long-distance and international calls via VoxOx rates instead of dollars per minute through their mobile carrier.”
Whether this system makes sense for you will depend on what kind of phone and data plans you have. An interesting side-effect of this procedure, though, is that the app can be used even on iPod touches and iPads, since you can set the app to call you on any number, including non-iPhone cell phones and landlines in your vicinity.
Like Google Voice, VoxOx offers transcriptions of voice messages, and these can be viewed in the iOS app. I haven’t tested it enough to evaluate how accurate the transcriptions are; Kevin Hertz, CTO at Telcentris (the company behind VoxOx), claims 80-90 percent accuracy.
In addition to international calling, VoxOx offers worldwide SMS. VoxOx has aimed to make text conversations as seamless as possible. If the person you’re conversing with leaves their office during a chat, it’s possible to switch between, say, their IM account and SMS on their cell phone. The app also has a simple way of emailing chat transcripts.
The iOS app offers several advanced features, including the ability to record calls, transfer between devices in the middle of a conversation, and arrange conferences of up to 20 people. Users can set up call forwarding to multiple phone numbers. VoxOx Call users can also receive, view and forward incoming faxes, change outgoing caller ID on the fly. It offers push notifications, too.
VoxOx Call doesn’t have quite as many features as the desktop version, though, and while it’s possible to sign up for a VoxOx account from the mobile app, VoxOx Call is intended to work in concert with the desktop software. There are a number of functions that can’t be accessed from the iOS app; even simple things such as adding an IM account aren’t available. Also, Skype integration seems to be missing, apparently because Skype requires its own software to be running in order for other programs to access it.
On the other hand, the iOS app has something the desktop application doesn’t: integration with the device’s address book.
During my conversation with Kevin Hertz, I asked him about some of the issues that caused me to be skeptical about the Mac version of the desktop app when I looked at it a few months ago. I’d been disappointed by its “un-Mac-like” appearance and poor font rendering, which made it unappealing to use. I had been surprised by its lack of connections to the Mac address book, or even a system for importing contacts. I was unhappy with its inconsistent support for such standards as oAuth and Facebook Connect. And I had also been annoyed by the tendency of VoxOx to default to an “invite your friends to use this” setting. Hertz assures me that all these issues will be addressed in updates to the desktop application.
VoxOx remains a promising, but flawed, product. The initial release of VoxOx Call for iOS will definitely appeal to those who do a lot of international calling and texting; its limited features and reliance on callbacks will make it less compelling for the rest of us.
Do you use VoxOx? How do you manage your mobile communications?