There’s no shortage of ways to communicate in the smartphone era, but most of them don’t involve actually hearing someone’s voice. One Boston-based startup has landed investor backing for the idea that actual phone calls still have plenty of life left.
“You have to talk for business. You have to talk for family. It’s not going away,” said Peter Rinfret, CEO of Flyp. “I can’t believe we’re going to a world where people communicate only by the written word.”
Flyp’s app lets users add multiple phone numbers to their cell phone, giving them the ability to route several types of calls through one device — personal calls on one line, business calls on another, and maybe even international calls on a third.
The company has raised $5.8 million in seed investment so far, Rinfret said, and is using the money to grow its base of about 20 employees based in Boston and Dallas.
Flyp said its app has been downloaded more than 1 million times in the past nine months. Pricing differs by country, but the US plan offers a limited number of minutes for free, charging for additional phone numbers and unlimited minutes.
Flyp’s app ties into traditional cellular networks, which gives the service a quality edge over Internet-only tools like Google Voice or Skype, Rinfret said. And because Flyp’s phone numbers are all US-based, users can call internationally without incurring huge charges, he said.
That’s possible in part because, as smartphones get more features, carriers of all stripes are making less money from phone calls and texts. In response, those companies are moving their businesses toward charging for data use, and giving away more voice and basic texting services.
In the US, that tipping point occurred in the fourth quarter of 2013 — the first time that data revenues passed voice-call charges for American wireless carriers.
“We are migrating so fast to a universal talk-and-text world,” he said. “I remember when making a phone call from Manhattan to New Jersey across the river was a long distance call.”
Flyp currently is available in the US, Canada, and 15 countries in Western Europe, Rinfret said. It plans to expand to another 30 countries this year.