Viber is aiming to help users save money and reduce hassle at the same time with a new add-on that lets travelers abroad make and receive phone calls and messages for free from just about anywhere from a static phone number. Announced by the company as "Viber Local Number," the subscription-based service does almost exactly what its name implies. Users get a local virtual phone number for use abroad at a low monthly cost.
Perks and drawbacks
The benefits of having a localized phone number are two-fold. First, users can make or receive phone calls from other countries without having to inform friends and family of a different phone number in each region they travel to. Because their phone number is virtualized, all that's needed is a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection and the Viber app.
Viber Out already allows users to make and receive calls and messages for free via its Viber Out service, regardless of whether the other party has the app or not. Viber Local Number builds on that by providing a localized number that doesn't change and that can be used from anywhere a connection is available. That also ensures that when the user is making outbound calls or sending messages, it always comes from the same phone number.
On the other side of that coin, users might also take advantage of Viber Local Number to ensure they call their clients and contacts from a constant local number while abroad -- specifically, from within the same region they're traveling to. For instance, if they travel to the UK, they could theoretically set up a UK virtual phone number to contact people they know locally.
As a side benefit, anybody calling to or from the localized number won't incur overage charges stemming from long-distance calls, which can get steep quickly.
One major drawback that could emerge from the new service is that spoofers and robotic callers could feasibly find a way to utilize Viber for more nefarious activity. Getting set up simply requires a user to navigate to the settings menu, select the Viber Local Number option, and choose a country and area code where calls are going to originate from.
Cost and where it works
Cost of the new Viber Local Number subscription is relatively cheap too. The first 10,000 users to sign up will incur a monthly cost set at just shy of $2. After those spots are gone, users can sign up for a penny short of $5 every month. The sole remaining cost is the storage space taken up by the app itself.
Multiple phone numbers can be subscribed for more money, allowing users to keep multiple 'local' numbers in a given region, with phone calls and texts arriving just as they normally would from each. As indicated above, the only pre-requisite to receiving incoming phone calls and texts will be that the user needs to have a data connection of some kind.
It doesn't necessarily matter whether that's a mobile data connection or a Wi-Fi connection so -- aside from the cost of the subscription -- the calls would essentially be free. That also allows the service to be used from anywhere in the world that the internet is readily available via either mobile data or local wireless internet service.