Fring for Android, iPhone getting group video chats

A new beta of the VoIP communications app Fring adds group video calling to its mix.

With more and more smartphones and tablets getting front-facing cameras these days, video chatting is on the forefront. VoIP company Fring, like rival OoVoo, is making group calling its next step.

The latest beta update to Fring, available today, will let you chat with up to four participants who also use Fring on an Android phone or iPhone.

On the preview we got ahead of the launch, the app was rough around the edges at this beta stage. For instance, the version we played with works in portrait mode, not landscape. We'd also like to see a more polished interface and interaction design, with options to launch a group call first, for example, before choosing the participants. As it stood when we got the demo, you choose the first recipient, then launch a video conference from there.

Fring isn't alone in offering group chats. OoVoo is already much more polished with onscreen controls, and offers calls for up to six chatters on a single call. As a desktop app, OoVoo can also connect VoIP callers between the desktop and mobile apps. Fring is limited to iOS and Android platforms. That's useful for mobile-to-mobile calls, but not for homebodies.

In addition, we'd expect to soon see Qik or Skype (which now owns Qik) follow the mobile group-chatting trend, although Skype declined to officially comment on future plans.

Fring is offering the app as a limited beta that requires a sign up to try.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.