With its HeyWire launch today, MediaFriends is trying to bring value to two key areas: those who want more affordable (re: free) text messaging between international markets and the ability to better manage Facebook chat and other accounts.
The company says HeyWire is the first and only multi-screen texting and chat service that delivers free international messages with a real phone number. Today’s release is for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Mac or PC users, but plans are under way to add Android and BlackBerry later this year and eReaders next year.
“We’re really breaking down the international borders of texting,” says MediaFriends CEO Meredith Flynn-Ripley. In fact, with a little help from international messaging company Sybase 365, MediaFriends is able to reach consumers in 114 countries and 1.6 billion people across 360 mobile operators.
More operators and countries are being added, but at launch, the service covers the top five regions where U.S. citizens most commonly text to, which includes Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and China.
The HeyWire service is based on MediaFriends’ IP software platform, and users need a data plan or Wi-Fi for it to work with their smartphone, but it will communicate through standard SMS protocols with mobile phones that are not running HeyWire.
So far, the company has heard positive feedback from beta users, Flynn-Ripley says. The benefits of free international texting is not limited to those who are traveling, and as for making it easier to juggle all those social networking accounts, HeyWire integrates messages from SMS, Facebook Chat, Twitter and IM into one place.
At launch, HeyWire has integrated Facebook Chat, with the major IM services coming this fall. Through HeyWire’s address book, text and chat messages can be sent out to Facebook friends and mobile address book contacts at the same time. Each reply ends up in a centralized message list so individual chat conversations can continue, the company says. When accessing HeyWire through a PC or Mac, the Facebook integration is complemented by the addition of Twitter and Instant Messaging from AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk and Windows Live Messenger.