Instant messaging and VoIP service Viber has launched a new major release, which introduces instant push-to-talk, a new sticker shop and optimization for Android tablets.
Viber is upping the ante in mobile instant messaging services. While its previous major release, version 3.0, came with desktop support, seamless call transfers and video calling on desktop, version 4.0 will likewise come with new features that will make communication faster and seamless.
Among the highlights of this release is a new push-to-talk (PTT) service, which provides instant voice communication at the press of a button. Talmon Marco, CEO of the Israel-based startup, said this feature is significantly faster than other similar apps (the likes of Voxer comes to mind). Marco says that the service unifies the four main steps in PTT, namely (1) record, (2) send, (3) download, and (4) play. This way, the average response time for a 15-second PTT transmission would be 5 seconds rather than the usual 45 to 60 seconds.
Viber’s new sticker shop is yet another highlight in this release. Version 4.0 brings two new characters to the service — Mayo and Blu — as well as other characters that users can send across as fun and colorful ways to express their message. Stickers are notably popular in some markets, such as the Asia Pacific, especially among the younger demographic. Some of Viber’s competitors, like LINE, are actually earning upwards of $10 million per month from sales of premium stickers alone. Viber seems to be familiar with this trend. “Our new sticker market offers 1,000 unique, fun and expressive characters, many of which are designed specifically for Asia,” Marco told VR-Zone.
Viber for Android tablets
In addition, while Viber has traditionally been optimized for smartphones, the company has also optimized its app for Android tablets. Users can now enjoy the messaging app on a variety of screen sizes and form factors, and will offer full synchronization of one’s account across smartphone, tablet and desktop clients. Features are as follows:
- Improved notifications for Android 4.0 and up
- Light Up Screen setting for incoming messages
- Use Viber messaging while on a Viber call
Other enhancements to the instant messaging app include:
- Message forwarding to any group or contact
- Choose new conversation backgrounds from a custom background gallery
- Group conversations with up to 100 participants
In addition, Viber has been experimenting with a new “Viber Out” feature, which will let users call regular telephones around the world. Viber CEO Marco told VR-Zone that the feature was launched as an experimental feature to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines get in touch with loved ones abroad.
The temporary service is “not a final product,” however, and Marco says it is still a “half-baked feature that we rushed to market to help our Philippine users.” In case the Israel-based startup pushes through with Viber Out as a mainstream feature, PSTN calling will come at a cost. The interface itself asks for users to purchase ViberOut Credits (denominations of $0.99 or $4.99) when attempting to contact countries not supported by the free offer.