LAS VEGAS--French telecommunications company Orange is showing off Libon at CES 2013, a communications app that lets you make free calls and texts with other iPhone users, but does more than most apps in the category. I got a demo from the company at CES, and the app seems like it could be a winner.
Like popular chat app Whatsapp Messenger, Libon lets you chat with other friends that have the app, but you also have the ability to make calls to other Libon users with HD-quality sound.
Upon launch, you'll see the app's home screen with icons for seeing the latest notifications, your contact list, your recorded greetings, a call button, and a write button for sending text messages. But what's interesting about the app is how it puts it all together. When you look at your communications with one contact, you can view all your messages and voice mail in one place for easy access. But it also automatically transcribes voice mails so you can read the pertinent info when you don't have time to listen. While the transcription isn't perfect, you'll likely be able to figure out the content of a message without having to listen.
To make communications more personal, the app also will let you create personal greetings for different people. The guys at the booth pointed out that people communicate differently depending on who they're talking to (like you probably talk differently to your friend than you do your boss). Initially it seemed like an unnecessary feature, but it would definitely be nice to be able to have a serious voice greeting for some calls and a more-casual one for others.
One thing I found confusing in my look at the app is the sorting feature for contacts. With the sort button in the upper right of the contacts screen, you can create a group, but instead of it being a place to keep a subset of contacts, it is instead used for when you create customized greetings (which is indeed a useful feature). But it still seems like if its for greetings, it should be accessed from that screen. The developers told me the sorting features are not complete yet, so expect more changes to make it easier in the future.
You can download Libon for free right now at the App Store and chat or make calls with other users who have the app at no charge. The free version only allows you to make three personalized greetings. But if you sign up for $2.99 a month, you'll get unlimited custom voice mail greetings, and you'll be able to call people on any mobile phone or landline.
Libon seems like a great idea done well with an easy-to-use interface, but I'll have to reserve judgement until I get to test all the impressive features I saw.