capsule review

Raketu Universal Messaging Client

At a Glance
  • Raketu

It's an Internet phone. No, it's an instant message service. No, it's IPTV. Wait-it's a news feed. Actually, Raketu combines all of the above, and then some. As a software client and a Web-based service, Raketu wants to be your communications, entertainment, and information hub. While that sounds great, Raketu overwhelms you with features, some of which just don't work.

After downloading and installing the Raketu client, I wasn't sure where to start--and the cluttered, just plain ugly interface didn't help. My eyes strained to adapt to its reverse-type style (white text on a black background), and the tiny, unintuitive icons were far from ideal.

I decided to check out the application's messaging features, which are supposed to let you phone other Raketu users on their computers, call landline or cell numbers (for a fee), send e-mail and instant messages, and whisk off SMS messages (at 5 cents a pop).

I encountered several issues from the start; the first appeared while I was trying to make PC-to-PC calls. To begin with, adding one Raketu contact--a seemingly simple task--took lots of clicking around. And once I successfully added my contact, we appeared offline to each other, despite being signed in to Raketu. The company concluded that the problem stemmed from my buddy's ISP (which was located overseas). At press time, the firm was investigating further, and said that it was planning a workaround to fix this issue. In the meanwhile, my problem with the contact remained.

Other Raketu contacts appeared online without a hitch, though, and call quality was impressive: Our voices came through loud and clear (no echoes), and I noted just one instance of voice-packet breakdown, when a cluster of words sounded slightly distorted.

Beyond that, however, I encountered more troubles: The software initially refused to allow me to make calls to landlines and to cell phones. The company then e-mailed me a fix, which eventually resolved the issue.

Despite the unsexy interface, the universal IM feature worked well. It lets you ping your buddies on AIM, Google, ICQ, Jabber, MSN, Skype, and Yahoo; you enter your screen name and password, and Raketu efficiently imports your IM contacts from your contact lists. You can also call your Skype contacts from within Raketu. (Raketu does not offer video calls, but the firm plans to add that feature in an upcoming release.)

The messaging features are just the tip of the iceberg. You can also customize news feeds from the BBC, CBC, The New York Times, and other news sites; set up podcasts; get weather, stock, and flight info; and view IPTV and Video on Demand. RakWeb, the Web-based piece of the pie, includes many of the same features as the software client: It lets PC and smart-phone users make calls, send e-mail and text messages, and watch TV. I haven't even mentioned Raketu's media player (with a karaoke button) or its slide-show viewer. But these features just feel like overkill.

You're probably well set up already with your RSS feeds, podcasts, Internet phone calls, and instant messaging on major services like Skype and Trillian or AIM. So why use Raketu? I can't think of a good reason.

--Aoife M. McEvoy

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At a Glance
  • This service's multi-purpose approach just doesn't work.

    Pros

    • Universal IM client works well
    • Call quality was good

    Cons

    • Cluttered, unintuitive interface
    • Offers too many features, and not all work well
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