For awhile there, making phone calls via the Internet was the unquestioned way to avoid expensive international and roaming rates. There were plenty of ways for the tech-at-heart to do it but then Skype came along at just the right time and made it quick and easy, not to mention cheap.
But every dog has its day and now there's a new calling app called Ringo that is claiming to offer lower rates, better quality and greater ease of use. How does it do it?
Well, quite honestly, we're not quite sure. The easy answer is that it assigns a local number to all of your international contacts. So if you live in Paris, Texas and want to call your Aunt Marie in Paris, France you enter her in your contacts list, Ringo assigns a local Texas number for Marie and routes the call to her via France. The recipient does not need to have the Ringo app.
Ringo says the call zings its way to (and from) Paris via undersea cable, with none of the drop-outs and weird sound effects that plague Internet calls and without asking you to turn on roaming.
Ringo claims its rates are about 25% cheaper than Skype. Ringo is available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone in 16 countries including Australia, UK, the U.S and Canada. The video below is Ringo's explanation for how it all hangs together.
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Whether Ringo is successful, of course, remains to be seen. The company isn't saying much about its finances or, more particularly, about the hoops it has jumped through to get space on undersea cables and to arrange the local switching arrangement that makes it all possible.
Technically, the set-up appears fairly straightforward but whether embedded carriers will sit still for it is another question. It would be reasonable to expect legal challenges if Ringo becomes enough of a factor to be noticed by the large telecom companies.