UPDATE: I just heard from Yusuf Motiwala, TringMe founder and CEO, who tells me that TringMe is now currently available for the BlackBerry Torch 9800. I downloaded the app myself to confirm, and it is indeed now Torch-compatible.
BlackBerry smartphone users can today download and employ a brand new mobile application designed to enable voice calls over Wi-Fi networks. TringMe for BlackBerry is, according to the company, the "world's first true VoIP application for BlackBerry"—though I'm not exactly sure that's a fact.
From the TringMe website:
"Yes, it's true. Calls can now be directly made over Wi-Fi. TringMe is the first Blackberry application to make it possible. Unlike other VoIP application [sic], it doesn't require your cellular minutes to make VoIP calls. If you do not have Wi-Fi, we also have local access numbers and callback options available to place your calls. And the best part is, TringMe users will be able to call for free to each other over Wi-Fi."
In other words, TringMe will attempt to employ available Wi-Fi networks for calls, and if they're unavailable, it will pop on over to your mobile Internet and attempt to place VoIP calls that way so you don't have to use any of your contracted cellular-voice minutes. If you employ the app over Wi-Fi, with other TringMe users, calls should be completely free, wherever you place them and whoever you call, the company says.
The application will work with or without a BlackBerry data plan, i.e., a BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) or BlackBerry Enterprise Server plan, and it's "enterprise ready," with end-to-end encryption for direct Wi-Fi calls. Organizations can choose to employ the TringMe app along with corporate phone networks, which means employs can connect directly to enterprise PBXs, according to the company. And it's both customizable and "brandable."
It's unclear which BlackBerry devices are supported at the moment, though I tried to download TringMe to my Torch 9800 with no luck, so it looks as though the app's not yet available for that device or RIM's new mobile OS, BlackBerry 6. But it does sounds interesting, albeit similar to existing BlackBerry VoIP apps like Truphone, Raketu, EQO and others.
The new TringMe for BlackBerry app also makes me wonder when, or if, U.S. consumer wireless users will ever see carriers other than T-Mobile support unlicensed mobile access (UMA) technology on BlackBerry smartphones. UMA support is built into certain versions of the BlackBerry OS, and it allows users to place VoWi-Fi calls over supported Wi-Fi networks, without any third-party applications.
T-Mobile is currently the only U.S. carrier that widely supports UMA, though enterprises which employ RIM's BlackBerry Mobile Voice System (MVS) 5 could also have access to some UMA functionality, regardless of carrier. Consumer BlackBerry users in the United States on carriers other than T-Mobile, who desire UMA, are currently out of luck.
I'm a huge fan of UMA—I've been decrying its virtues in this blog for years--and it can be incredibly valuable to people who spend the majority of their workdays within range of Wi-Fi networks. But carriers, who understandably want their customers to consume as many voice-minutes as possible and hopefully incur overage charges, have been hesitant to embrace UMA.
With so many third-party BlackBerry apps enabling some form of VoIP calling, it seems like it could be time for carriers to get over their hang-ups and offer new UMA services, as T-Mobile has during the past few years.
Unfortunately, something tells me this is unlikely, since not one U.S. carrier other than T-Mobile has shown any sign of turning tail and offering UMA support to its customers.