I got an alpha invitation for MobiVox today, so I figured I would give it a try. MobiVox is a gateway to the Skype network, meaning that I can use my regular phone to call a Skype contact. Although MobiVox does provide other features such as the ability to make relatively inexpensive long distance and international calls through its gateway, I'm going to focus on the Skype connectivity portion.
Upon setting up an account, I provided my Skype username and password, which auto-populated the contact list from the Skype servers. After setting up my account, I picked a couple of local access numbers that would not be long distance calls; in reality I only use a cellphone and my cellphone has unlimited long distance, so I could have picked any number in US and not had a problem.
To test the Skype gateway, I first initiated a web-based call from the MobiVox website. Although the website is in alpha and has the expected misspellings and interface issues, I was still able to figure out how to make a call from my cellphone to another Skype account in my house. On the first attempt the MobiVox service called my phone, stated that it was connecting to the Skype gateway, and then the call dropped -- not encouraging. The second attempt yielded better results as the normal ringing sound followed the announcement that MobiVox was connecting to the Skype gateway. After being connected, the call quality was ok: not great and not horrible. The biggest issue was that there was a discernable delay between the time that I spoke and the audio arrived at the computer and vice versa. In using similar products from companies like Talkster, I have not noticed discernible delays -- normally I have no problems using Skype and SkypeOut over my network with normal traffic, so I think that I can safely safely assume that it was not a network congestion issue on my end.
Due to the fact that the product is still in alpha, I don't want to comment yet on their pricing model; they do have a pricing and cost tracking module built, but I'm not sure if the rates are real or just placeholders to check the system. It would be my guess that pricing would be very similar to other players in the VOIM space. Interestingly, the first call that did not go through was in the call history log as a 2 minute call with an associated price; again, the service is in alpha, so it's hard to judge the service based on things like this.
One of the cool differentiators of MobiVox is that you can call your local access number and interact with the system via voice recognition. The voice recognition system can actually be queried about Skype presence, which is really cool and seems to work pretty well. As one would expect, you can use the MobiVox gateway to not only call via the Skype network with voice commands, but also to call regular numbers if they are associated with the contact; if you only populate Skype information in your Skype contacts, then you just say the person's name and the system assumes that you want to connect via Skype. Should you not be comfortable with voice commands, you can also use the telephone keypad to interact with the service in a similar way that you use your keypad to interact with IVR systems -- you simply hit # to let the system know you will be using the keypad.
Some of the advanced features that I have yet to play with include:
- Conferencing. You can instantly conference up to 9 additional traditional telephone numbers and 1 additional Skype contact by simply pressing the * key.
- Hand-off. If you populate numbers in your MobiVox account, you can actually have the system hand off the call from phone to phone. For example, if you initiate the call on your cell phone, then arrive at work and want to continue the call at your office, you press * during the call and have the IVR system transfer the call. This is a damn cool feature.
There are some other features that will be available when the service launches, but since I can't play with them, I'm not going to cover them yet. Projected launch for the service is at this year's CTIA.
Let me know if you want to try out the service with me as I'm always up to test new products.