Have you ever been sitting at home while making a call to someone only to find yourself hurrying up the conversation to save minutes? Or how about paying outrageous international roaming charges when travelling abroad? Now, wherever there’s a Wi-Fi hotspot, you can make ‘app to app’ calls for free.
You may wonder what ‘app to app’ means. Well, with VoIP calls there is no direct and easy way to make free calls from your iPhone to a cellular or landline. Doing so does costs money (albeit sometimes far less than using your cellular network), and each VoIP client has their own rates. But, if you wish to call someone who is already using Skype, Fring, or any of the other apps listed below, you can in fact do so for free.
Below are some of the most popular and widely used VoIP apps for the iPhone!
Skype is undoubtedly the most popular VoIP app of all. If you use Skype at home then it should definitely be on your iPhone or iPod touch. To make calls, simply select someone on your Skype contacts list and you’ll be talking in no time.
On top of voice calls, Skype for the iPhone also allows for chats just like the desktop app (it now allows for landscape chat mode). It also permits the user to set his or her status and profile information.
Skype also offers a range of subscriptions that make international calls remarkably inexpensive. You can either pay $5.95 per month to call unlimited landlines in one country of your choice, or $12.95 for any country in the world. A huge money saver if you would otherwise be paying network rates.
Fring is another popular mobile VoIP client and, aside from its own functionality, is great because it allows you to integrate other popular social outlets such as Skype, ICQ, Twitter and AIM. Fring provides an excellent way to keep most of your social networking and instant messaging all bundled in one app.
You can make free calls to any other VoIP, Fring or Skype user. Fring offers a special version for visually impaired users as well.
Truphone is similar to Fring in that it integrates with other accounts you may have such as Twitter, but this is about it. Truephone, just like all of these VoIP apps, has its own contacts list from which you can freely call other Truephone users.
iCall is another highly rated app that can be downloaded from the App Store. You can link your Facebook account which is nice. After the main start-up screen and accepting the user agreement, iCall will prompt you to select an account type. It offers a variety of accounts including a trial, free-use and paid use. iCall will then place a verification call and your account will be ready to go.
CallGlobal is similar to iCall with its registration process. After it sets up your account and number, you may make CallGlobal to CallGlobal calls, VoIP calls and direct calls. CallGlobal to CallGlobal calls are free, while all other calls cost a certain rate per minute.
When to Use VoIP
Some of you may be asking, “Why would I ever need to make a VoIP call?” There are a few situations in which using VoIP would save the day (and a lot of money!).
First, when making an international call. For example, say I want to call my buddy in the UK. AT&T charges $1.29 per minute for a US to UK phone call. After chatting for a few minutes, this could get quite expensive. The solution? Ask my buddy to get on Skype (or Fring, etc. – you get the idea) from the convenience of his own desktop or iPhone and we can converse all day long, free of charge.
If asking someone go sign into their VoIP service seems unreasonable, the alternative is to purchase a call package from one of the above companies. It’s still likely to work out far cheaper than the standard network per-minute charge.
Another useful situation in which using VoIP would work well would be if you are somewhere that offers a connection to Wi-Fi and you want to save those expensive minutes for more necessary calls. If you have Wi-Fi at home, using VoIP on your iPhone could potentially save you hundreds of minutes.
VoIP has some major limitations, first and foremost, being that a Wi-Fi connection is required. No 3G or GPRS network can be substituted for a Wi-Fi connection, and it isn’t possible to use any of these apps over your cellular data connection (unless you’re happy to jailbreak your iPhone first).
After you do have a Wi-Fi connection, then the problem of who you are calling is presented. Most of the apps listed above only permit free calling to others who are also using the same app. As time goes on, VoIP will become a more convenient way of calling friends and family.
In my research, I did find one way to make free calls to commercial landines. To do so, call (I used Skype): 1-800-GOOG-411
This is Google’s free 411 service. I used it to look up a few local businesses and it proved to be reliable. Try it for yourself and let me know how it works!
How Do You VoIP?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments! Do you have a particular preference for one VoIP application, and would you consider jailbreaking your phone for access to these apps over a 3G connection?