Orange launches Libon, a VoIP app that wants to own your phone

Libon is a new VoIP client with surprising roots -- it was developed by the R&D arm of one of Europe's largest mobile networks, Orange. Of course, you could argue that such apps are bad for carriers, because it encourages people to gobble up pricey data capacity -- so why build one? We spoke to Valeé chief Giles Corbett and spent a few days testing it out ahead of its launch to find out more.

Corbett told us that his prime targets are services like WhatsApp and Viber, but with the added twist of integrating those VoIP and messaging services together with your smartphone's dialler. Calls and texts between users are free, but you can contact outsiders with Libon Minutes (think: Skype Credit) or with your cellular plan all from the same interface. Given the frosty reception many networks have given to such things, it seems odd that Orange would produce something that conflicts with its business. His response was that it has to remain relevant, and that "owning" new services like this would help it stay ahead of its competition. It makes sense, given that WhatsApp is believed to have eaten away at nearly $14 billion of carrier revenues last year.

Orange launches Libon, a VoIP app that wants to own your phone

Setup requires an email address, password and your phone number, and once you've done that, it'll send you a text message to authenticate. After that, it'll pull your existing contacts list and let you organize them into groups -- enabling you to chat to multiple people at once. You're also able to set up custom voicemail messages, so when colleagues call up, they get a different response than if close friends do.

The app itself is free, but you can spend $2.99 (£1.99, €2.69) to get additional features like an hour of international calling features every month. It's available to download from the App Store from today, with an Android client coming "very shortly." Oh, and for the etymologically curious? Libon is a portmanteau of "Life is Better On," the original name for the app, so now you know.

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Orange launches Libon
Calls, messages and visual voicemail - all for FREE

What if we told you that everything you do on your phone could be free? Yep, that's right: free phone calls, free text messages and free visual voicemail, no matter what network you're on.

Now there's an iOS app for that, and that's Libon!

Free calls, free IMs and a voicemail that does it all

With Libon, you're now able to call all of your Libon contacts for free all over the world. And when you're not there to answer, your customized Libon voicemail will answer for you.

Download the app and get Premium for free for 30 days, which includes 60 minutes of free calls to landlines and mobiles around the world and an ad-free app.

Libon is available in 95 countries worldwide.