A Netherlands-based startup is offering a sort of Swiss Army knife VoIP-IM-chat-texting program that can operate on hundreds of mobile phone handsets, according to an announcement Tuesday.
Called Nimbuzz, the all-in-one application was announced in the U.K. and the beta offering is available for download. The company has received several million dollars in backing from venture capitalists, including $10 million from Mangrove Capital Partners, which was the original backer of Skype.
The application works across several social networking sites including MySpace and Facebook and enables users to communicate with each other, often free of charge. Nimbuzz currently has 500,000 users; they can utilize the application inexpensively if they have flat-rate data plans.
"Everyone loves Skype -- on the PC," said Tariq Dag Steinberg Kahn, Nimbuzz's chief marketing officer. "But when it comes to the mobile, we believe we offer a better solution. With this new release, we now also have a genuine free mobile VoIP solution that works on more than 90 handsets including Nokia, Samsung, and LG."
To use the service, a six-button widget must be downloaded. After two users have downloaded the application, they can make mobile-to-mobile calls to each other for the price of a local call, even for international calls. Conference calls of up to five persons can be initiated.
The service is mixed and matched throughout a hierarchy of 176 countries, 3G, Wi-Fi, and GPRS/EDGE networks. Nimbuzz operates with Java-equipped phones and with Nokia Symbian Series 60 handsets. Coming soon is capability for iPhones and for Windows Mobile devices. The application also provides free file, photo, and ringtone sharing as well as free text messaging among Nimbuzz users. Nimbuzz says there are "no subscriptions, no payments, no credits to purchase."
Calls over VoIP services including Skype, MSN, Gtalk, and AIM buddies are also supported, as are calls from PC-to-mobile, mobile-to-PC, and PC-to-PC.
"The good news is that mobile data costs are coming down dramatically," said Steinberg Kahn. "Flat-rate data plans didn't exist last year in Europe; now they're everywhere. This makes using Nimbuzz the closest thing to free communication there is." He said the company is building working relationships with carriers and strategic partners in Europe.