Review: Bria Android Edition VoIP Client - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell

December 20, 2010

The interface is impressively simple. Four icons across the top: Phone, Call Log, Contacts and More. Directly below that row is the phone number field where the digits you dial on the onscreen keypad appear. Below that: the keypad with number buttons big enough even for the fat fingered. At the very bottom is another row of three function buttons: conversation recording, Send/Call and backspace.

The Contacts button takes you to a list of contacts stored with your Google account (if any) or that you've added manually. The More button pops up a menu that gives access to Settings, Help and more. The Android Back button (a multi-purpose hardware button on the phone) backs you out of menus.

Using Bria Android Edition

The more serious problems with Bria on this device surfaced on the first call. While call quality at my end was reasonably good, for the person at the other end, the audio volume was unbearably loud and distorted, and the person's own voice echoed back to him so loudly and consistently that conversation was impossible. (This was despite "echo cancellation" being turned on in the softphone settings.)

In subsequent test calls, others reported the same symptoms.

In my first conversations with CounterPath about the problem, a tech support engineer said this was a known problem affecting at least some, possibly many devices, including most if not all Samsung phones and at least one of the other devices included in CounterPath's published list of compatible devices, the HTC Evo.

In subsequent conversations with CounterPath, the company claimed the problem was mainly with Samsung models and that it had informed Samsung, which was working on a solution. At the time of writing, Samsung had yet to corroborate this.

Testing of Bria Android Edition on the second phone, the Motorola Milestone, was even more short-lived. The Milestone is supposedly identical to the Motorola Droid, except with a different cellular radio. The Droid (but not the Milestone) appears in CounterPath's published list of compatible devices.

While the Samsung phone allowed us to buy the product from the Android Market directly on the phone, on the Milestone, a search for Bria in the Market turned up nothing. CounterPath could not explain this, but said it had noted the same problem with some other devices.

It recommended using one of several third-party apps for installing "non-Market" products and sent me the Bria installer in an email. I tried two different installers recommended by CounterPath. With both tapping the installer generated a "Parse Error" and the app would not install.

I was able to install other non-Market apps using these third-party installers, however, so the problem was at least in part with the CounterPath software.

Finally, just as I was finishing the review, I received the ViewSonic ViewPad 7. The Bria softphone installed fine on this device, but in brief testing, it performed not much better than on the Samsung smartphone.

There was latency (which could be OnSIP rather than the CounterPath software) and echo on all calls. Conversation was virtually impossible.

Not ready for prime time

Where does this leave us? Bria Android Edition is clearly not quite ready for prime time. But is this a problem with CounterPath, the devices or with Android? Probably all of the above to one degree or another.

My instinct, given CounterPath's otherwise sterling reputation, is to put more of the blame on Android. On the other hand, the appearance on the company's published list of supposedly compatible devices on which the product clearly doesn't work suggests insufficient testing.

It's also worth noting that CounterPath insists the product works fine with at least one device, the HTC Desire. And it's talking hopefully about resolutions to the problems by mid-January. Stay tuned.

We'll publish an follow-up if there is anything further to report. Bria Android Edition, despite these problems, is an important product, simply because Bria is the preferred softphone for many VoIP providers.

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