Line2's Continuing Troubles
I'm still looking forward to trying Line2 on my iPhone, but the VoIP app's launch continues to be hobbled by Internet-borne attacks.
(Line 2 started suffering a denial-of-service attack on Friday -- chronicled on parent company Toktumi's Twitter feed. During that time, the app disappeared from the iPhone App Store, which gave me a scare: There are multiple other examples of programs you'd think Apple might have a problem with hitting the store, attracting attention, and then getting yanked by Apple. But Toktumi founder Peter Sisson told me that the company pulled the app itself so that new users wouldn't start off with a bad experience during the attack.)
On Sunday, David Pogue of the New York Times reported that the problem was someone's auto-signup bot that was registering bogus accounts as fast as it could, but that Line2 parent Toktumi had figured out a workaround. But now that's out of date: I was able to download the app, but once I'd stepped through the sign-up process on my iPhone, I got this:
The Toktumi blog explains what's going on: The company has put the app back in the App Store, but is limiting the number of new signups each hour to foil the bot. It doesn't seem like a long-term solution-especially since you only learn about the signup cap after getting most of the way through registering, and apparently have to start all over again if you want to give it another go.
As Pogue says, it's a lousy thing to happen to a promising service. Maybe Toktumi's original stopgap -- temporarily ending the month of free trial service and requiring payment of $15 in advance for the first month of service -- would be the best way to ensure that people who really want Line2 can get it and nobody's time is wasted.
Eager to Test
As I mentioned in my story on Skype's new version for Android and BlackBerry handsets on Verizon, I have this dream of using Google Voice or a Google Voice-like service to make calls on a smartphone over the data connection, thereby avoiding using up my precious supply of voice minutes. It turns out that Skype Mobile can't help. But Line2, a new iPhone VoIP service from Toktumi, might be just what I've been looking for.
David Pogue reviewed Line2 for the New York Times Thursday, and he mostly likes it; I got a demo from Toktumi founder Peter Sisson last week at the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas. The service gives you a phone number that you can use via your AT&T line, over 3G data , or Wi-Fi. If you use the latter two options, you don't use up your voice minutes. And it seems to do a remarkably good job of dealing with the fact that third-party apps can't run in the background on the iPhone. (If Line2 isn't running when someone calls you, you'll get the call anyhow -- it just comes in via your standard AT&T number.)
Unlike Google Voice or Skype, Line2 isn't free-but the $15 a month sounds reasonable, and might pay for itself if you can downsize your AT&T plan to a level of service with fewer voice minutes. Sisson told me that Toktumi is working on an Android version of the app, which will make Line2's benefits available on carriers other than AT&T.
As Pogue says, Line2 looks and feels very much like the iPhone's standard phone dialer, only with more features; maybe you have a theory as to why Apple thought that the Google Voice app would "confuse" iPhone owners but is okay with Line2.
[UPDATE: Early Sunday morning, the app returned to availability on the iTunes App Store, but if you step through the signup process you eventually get a message that new memberships are on hold, and that you'll get an e-mail when they're available again.)