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skype alternativeThe world of Voice over IP is expanding fast, and we’re getting more and more options for calling our friends without paying cellphone providers. The strongest, and most known contender in this area is obviously Skype, and they’ve been rather good at it.

Although Skype offers multiple options like calling regular phones and Skype To Go numbers, the basic thing many people still want to do is simply call from Skype to Skype. And here, Tango offers a pretty good alternative, especially since the latest updates to Skype have not been to everyone’s liking.

Installation and Setup

Tango is a video calling solution for Windows (XP and up), Android (2.1+) and iOS (4.0+), which makes use of your existing contact list already saved on the device. In order to use Tango, both sides need to have it installed, but the installation and registration process is quick and easy, and the results are surprisingly good.

The way Tango uses your existing contact list sure saves time, but it’s sorely lacking a way to manually add contacts. If you don’t have contacts saved on your device, there will be no contacts to display in Tango.

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When you first install Tango on any device, you’d need to create an account. This includes your mobile phone number and your email address. By these two parameters, others will be able to find you if they already use Tango.

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For some reason, the default Windows interface looks like an phone, but don’t be discouraged by this, it’s easily changeable.

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The Windows client offers some configurable settings (there are much less of these in the Android and iOS clients), and among these you’ll find the “Skins” option. Click on it to change the skin from “Phone” to just plain old regular Windows.

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And now you can actually start using Tango.

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On your mobile device there are no skins, and Tango will load all your contacts automatically when you install it. So all you have left to do is invite friends and make calls.

Making & Receiving Calls

While Tango works well on Windows, it’s rather apparent that it’s actually meant to be used on mobile devices. Even if we ignore the default phone skin, the whole Windows interface still leaves something to be desired. To start, the window is small, and there’s no way to make it full-screen. You can play with the size, but it doesn’t really like to be too big, and will sometimes just change sizes on its own to become smaller again.

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Having said that, it definitely works well, and you can easily use the Windows client to make calls, receive calls, turn video on and off and so on.

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The video quality is not incredible, but definitely usable, and I managed to get better results than those I sometimes get on Skype. Depending on the device you’re using, you can switch between front and back-facing cameras, switch to horizontal view or turn video off altogether.

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On a mobile device, things look a lot better. The Tango app integrates well into the interface, and makes using it almost as easy as regular calling. It automatically uses your phone’s contacts, so without configuring anything, you can see names, pictures, and other information you already have in your address book.

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Now all you have to do to start using Tango regularly is have other friends that use it too. Tango is not so popular yet, but you can invite friends to install it so you can use Tango to call them.

Inviting Friends

This is probably the biggest glitch in Tango, although it is probably an intentional one. You can only invite people who already appear in your contact list. This is not a huge problem – your friends should be there anyway, but it’s still a weird limitation to have. Moreover, it becomes a real problem when using devices on which you don’t have an address book.

You can invite friends via e-mail or SMS. To do so, either click/tap the “Invite” tab, choose your invitation method and then choose who you wish to invite. You can invite multiple users at once.

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Alternatively, if you’re on a mobile device, you can just browse your contacts and tap the “plus” icon next to a contact. This will let you invite this contact using a text message or via e-mail.

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The e-mail/SMS you send as an invitation is not customizable, so you might want to inform your friends that you’ve actually sent this. Otherwise, it might look like just another spam/commercial e-mail.

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Bottom Line

Tango is by no means perfect. It still has quite a way to go before I can truly call it a full Skype alternative. But with a simple interface, a lightweight app and a friendly attitude, Tango are on the right path. And considering how Skype for Android tends to behave sometimes, it’s actually quite a good option for VoIP calls that I plan to use frequently (just as soon as I have some friends that use it too).

What is your experience with Tango? Do you know of another VoIP solution we should try?  If so, share it in the comments!

  1. Ed
    December 20, 2011 at 5:10 am

    Video does not work on http://www.dhgate.com/christmas-gift-apad-w-7-quot-inch-renesas/p-ff808081336e46b9013371bdab535390.html 
    tablet. works from laptop to tablet but no video from tablet to laptop. nothing on the screen on the tablet. Was hopeful.

    • Yaara
      December 21, 2011 at 1:45 pm

      I'm not sure why that would be. I haven't tried it on an Android tablet, but it worked for me on both an Android phone and an iPad. Maybe you can contact Tango about it.

  2. Softver Berza
    November 25, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    It seems good, but I'm trying to find some Skype alternative for Bada platform. Can you help me?

    • Yaara
      November 27, 2011 at 11:24 am

      I've heard that Viber might be coming out for Bada at some point, but it might take a while. I don't know of any good Skype alternative, but I'm not a Bada user. You could try asking on MakeUseOf Answers, someone's bound to know of something!

  3. Sarah
    November 24, 2011 at 8:11 pm
  4. Debdeb61
    November 9, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    I've used Tango for almost a year now, it's great.

    • Yaara
      November 10, 2011 at 7:20 am

      Thanks Debdeb! I've only been using it for a short while so it's nice to know it's been working out for you for so long.

  5. Ankur
    November 9, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Looks good . I might try it. I hope it dont drain battery as a user reported in above comment. 

    • Yaara
      November 10, 2011 at 7:19 am

      Let us know how you fair with it!

  6. GovGeek
    November 8, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    Chews up serious battery run-time during a video call and phone is quite hot after use of just a few minutes. We get "degraded video performance" when my wife and I chat at the same time between her stock iPhone4s and my stock Droid Bionic w/extended battery. Video calling is usable, but I wouldn't try to rekindle that old friendship using this app... you might get burned.

    • Yaara
      November 9, 2011 at 6:17 am

      Sorry you didn't have a good experience with it. I had no heating trouble with the two devices I tried (Acer Liquid E and Samsung Galaxy SII), and no degraded video performance either.

      Did you try chatting on the same Wi-Fi network or was in on 3G? 
      Hopefully they'll keep improving. Skype for Android is becoming unusable, so Tango for me is a worthy alternative.

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