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Review: Bria Android Edition VoIP Client

While VoIP over Wi-Fi is no longer leading edge, VoWi-Fi on a mobile phone is still pushing the envelope a little - VoIP over 3G even more so.

That CounterPath, maker of some of the most popular softphones, recently jumped into mobile VoIP with both feet is a sign the market is maturing. (A softphone is a program that turns a computing device into a phone so it can work with a VoIP service.) But as we discovered, the market may not be fully mature yet.

CounterPath launched an iPhone version of its Bria softphone in the summer, and last month added Bria Android Edition ($7.99). According to some company literature, the new product works with any device running Android 2.1 or higher. CounterPath has also published a list of compatible devices.

I tested Android Edition initially on a Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant smartphone, part of a line that Samsung debuted in mid-July and sold a million of by late August -- and one that appears on CounterPath's list of compatible devices. Vibrant can now run under Android 2.2, but at the time of testing was running Android 2.1. Subsequently I tried it on a Motorola phone, the Milestone, a variant of the Droid product -- also on the list -- which is sold through Canada's Bell Mobility. It runs Android 2.1. Late in the process, I also tested it on the brand new ViewSonic ViewPad 7, a 7-inch-screen tablet computer.

While there were some positives in what I saw, the testing suggests this product needs work. The Bria client did not function satisfactorily on any of these devices.

In fairness, the problem may be as much the fragmentation of the Android universe, with different variants of the operating system running on different hardware platforms creating an almost impossible situation for app developers.

CounterPath, to its credit, is not denying there are problems on some hardware platforms, and is promising solutions. It also says the product definitely works as advertised on some devices.

Getting started with Bria Android Edition

Customers can buy Bria Android Edition by surfing to the CounterPath website or going to the Android Market on their phone. Either way, you tap a link to download the program -- I tapped a link in an email from CounterPath that did the same thing -- and then tap the program icon to install it.

The client software installed quickly enough, but after I'd entered the license key, and it accepted the key, it told me it was still waiting for a server response. We waited together for a few minutes, with the Vibrant annoyingly timing out and turning off its screen every few minutes and having to be turned back on again. Finally, I gave up and tapped "cancel" -- and only then discovered that underneath the waiting-for-server-response message was the configuration dialog for Bria where you enter details about your VoIP service.

Setting up Bria Android Edition

The configuration dialog is simple enough: a list of identification/setup items - display name, user name, password, domain, outgoing proxy, authentication name, voice mail, etc. - with a right-arrow link beside each. Tap the link and the empty field and onscreen keyboard appear. After you enter the value, it appears under the field name.

I set up Bria Android Edition to work with an existing Junction Networks OnSIP hosted PBX. OnSIP is a very good small business (or small office) PBX solution that in earlier testing using the Windows desktop Bria client delivered generally excellent call quality.

Passwords are the trickiest part of setting up a SIP account on a mobile phone. The assigned password in this case was 12 characters and used numbers and upper and lower case letters. Entering it on the Vibrant's onscreen keyboard was slightly tedious.

At the end of all the input, you click the login button. The first time I did this -- with breath held -- I received a message saying 'STUN Error' and something to the effect that the phone would automatically try to log in again. It may have tried, but it was only after I tapped the login button again that it successfully logged in to the OnSIP PBX on the second try and displayed the main Bria interface.