It’s a huge hit in the wealthy city-state of Monaco, used by about 90% of that population. And now, the Cyprus-based calling/messaging service Viber — one of Skype’s start-up competitors — is reporting that its worldwide user base has soared to 175 million.
That latest figure was reported this week by CEO Talmon Marco at the Mobile World Congress, the big trade show being held in Barcelona. When graphed, Viber's growing number of users shows a line going up, sharply.
In February of last year, Viber reported 50 million users, followed by 70 million in May. By September, it was at 100 million, then 140 million by December. The company, which started in 2011, has said it is adding 400,000 users every day. Its app is available for iOS, Android, Symbian, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Nokia’s S40 for feature phones and Samsung’s Bada.
Although a breakdown by platform or country is not available, the company could be fueling its growth by targeting platforms in emerging markets such as Nokia’s S40, which are non-Symbian feature phones that can run some kinds of apps. Last year, Nokia said it had sold 1.5 billion S40 phones. Another Barcelona announcement by Marco pointed to that strategy — Viber now has a partnership with the Indonesian carrier Axis, in which the service’s free messaging is offered as part of a discounted package.
With Viber, smartphone users can send free texts or messages with photos, and make free calls over 3G or Wi-Fi, to other Viber users on any device or network. No registration, alias or invitation is required to use the service, and it offers immediate integration with a user’s contact list.
The company said that its calls are “HD quality and often offer better sound quality than regular carrier networks,” and adds that it does not and will not accept ads. In comparison with the Microsoft-owned Skype, which has about 800 million users, Viber noted that it does not require users to add contacts, wait for the contacts to be approved or maintain separate contact lists from the phone’s normal one. Additionally, actual phone numbers are used by Viber, instead of user names.