EQO is launching a new version of their mobile client. The company, which was initially in direct competition with iSkoot for the Skype deal, has restructured its offering. Instead of serving as a mobile client for Skype, EQO will now be offering its own branded mobile VOIP service. They raised $9 million last month.
Their new mobile client embodies this change. The new client, which runs on Java compatible phones, provides a complete communications suite, essentially taking over your normal phone interface while running. It lets you make VOIP assisted calls, IM across networks (MSN, YAHOO, AIM, GoogleTalk, ICQ, Jabber), and text message. Nimbuzz released a similar Java client back in January. Fring has had a similar application but only on Nokia phones. Talkster has a WAP browser based version.
On some phones, EQO will be able to import your address book so that integration is seamless. IM contacts will be added when EQO logs in to your networks with the credentials you supply (credentials stored on phone, not their servers).
Like most other players in this space, EQO helps save you money on long distance calls by bridging long distance calls over cheaper IP lines. What essentially happens is that your phone an EQO server on a local number, which transfers your call onto cheaper data lines across the internet, and then hops back onto standard phone lines and through another local number to the callee. The call only costs you minutes from your phone plan and the data cost for the VOIP line which runs 95-98% less than standard calling rates. Callers will store value for phone calls in EQO credits. However, calling another EQO user is free.
EQO’s IM system includes elements of presence, meaning you can tell which of your friends is online or offline of EQO or your IM networks. Presence can be somewhat tricky with clamshell phones, which stop running applications when the phone is closed. In that case you can “nudge” your friend to get online by sending them an SMS. IM chat is free from EQO, only incurring the costs from your phone’s data plan. If they’re not on EQO, you can easily invite them to join. The same goes for “EQO messages” (text messages), if they are to other EQO users. EQO messages can be sent to non EQO users as an SMS, but still incur their standard phone charges.
EQO currently has over 100,000 customers based on their older release. It’s easy to see why so many companies are after this market. International calling is currently a $292 billion market as the companies research cites. VOIP plays are helping cannibalize this market while maintaining the ease of use of a mobile phone.