For starters, let me tell you a few things about VoIP. This is a technology that lets users make calls over the internet (Voice over Internet Protocol). VoIP is a part of a larger system, we call Internet Telephony, the system that allows sharing files or sending text messages over the internet. It basically moves the use of a phone on the internet.
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What is VoIP? How you can use it to reduce Telephone bills?
Although, to use an internet system such as VoIP, you will need a smartphone connected to the internet or a telephony adapter, for your phone back home (this TA plugs into your DSL modem or cable and into the phone), but, nowadays these are all over the place, and you can get them at reasonable prices, it’s not that much of a drawback. I’m sure by now, the question on everyone’s mind is: “Why would I want VoIP? My PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) connection works well.” My answer to this question is: “Money!”, VoIP is the cheapest method of calling you will ever find.
For the purpose of this tutorial, I’ll talk about 2 categories: first of all, it’s the land line VoIP service (hardware based). This service uses the TA to connect your old telephone to the internet. This system requires you to have an internet connection, and furthermore, to make a subscription to one of many VoIP plans available from different carriers, also you will need to buy the hardware necessary to set up your VoIP system (such as TA and/or telephone), these do not come cheap, I’ve seen this equipment from $50 and up to $300.
These VoIP services cost way less than regular phone subscriptions, so you will definitely even out your investment, but they do have some minor setbacks. For example, if you are using your broadband connection intensely (downloading a movie or something data intensive), the quality of your call might be slightly lower. But apart from that, you have a really good telephone service with the lowest cost you could find (some offer unlimited calls in the US and Canada, and as low as $0.30/min for international calls).
Top 5 VoIP Phones to try out
Here are a few VoIP services you would be interested in. Keep in mind that with all of these, you will not have heavy equipment and cables running all over your house, these are all simple systems, that could be used just like regular phones.
1. Skype Phones
Until recently, I never known Skype offered phones. But now that I know, I must admit it’s one of the best VoIP services around. For $80, you will get the Skype Phone (or the USB phone for less than that) and you can enjoy unlimited calls world wide for as little as $13.
The oldest player here, PhoneGnome is one of the best in the business. They offer unlimited VoIP calls and the VoIP phone for $99. Plus you don’t have a monthly bill. And for $5/month, you can have 10 numbers where you can call unlimited.
A bit more expensive than PhoneGnome, the equipment costs $250 and you only pay a $12/year tax and that’s it. This service is way more cheaper than your PSTN service. You get the TA and you can plug in any phone you want.
One of the most known services in this industry with quite an experience, Vonage offers a full package at $80/equipment and you have to pay a monthly subscription of $25, but you have included unlimited calls in US, Canada and other 60 countries.
This service is a cross between software and hardware services. The magicJack is a USB device that connects to your computer, and to it you connect your phone. The equipment costs $40 for the first year, and $20/year after that. And that’s all, you call free of charge in the US and Canada, and for international calls you get a pretty low cost (under $0.34/min).
Top 5 VoIP Software
The second way to setup VOIP is software based. This will most likely be the one you are best used to. This type of VoIP can handle video calls and screen sharing (see article about best screen sharing apps) or voice calls. This type of VoIP is more wide spread than the hardware based one because of its flexibility. You can install the app on your PC or smartphone and talk to anyone else who is using it. And since nearly everyone has an IM app (Skype, Yahoo, Google Talk, MSN etc), and because most of these IMs have the option of voice calls, it’s really easy to stay connected.
These services do not need much introduction, you all know what they care capable of and what they offer, but I’ll name a few nonetheless:
Microsoft’s newest acquisition is the the best known VoIP service in the world. It offers a host of features, it has low cost rates and it’s really easy to use, both on PC/Mac or smartphone.
2. Yahoo! Voice
Yahoo! is better known for its Y!M (Yahoo! Messenger) and its really cool mail service. You have seen how good the voice calls on the Y!M are, so it’s not hard to imagine the premium service is even better.
3. Google Voice
Google is the giant when it comes to internet, and lately we have seen Google reach out to TV, mail services, smartphones, and just about every thing working on electricity (inside joke here). The Voice service from Google, available on smartphones is really good, better even than normal calls.
This European service is available for Windows, Mac and Linux users, or via the Firefox add-on and it allows users to call with the unbelievable low cost of 0.006€/min.
Uniting all the devices into one name: pfingo. This app works on any platform and it lets you call for free other pfingo users world wide, and also, if you like to call to other services, you do that at $0.04/min.
Top 4 VoIP Apps for iPhone/Android
The VoIP service, in my opinion, is best used on smartphones. To avoid carrier fees, it’s a good idea to look for apps that allow you to use Wi-Fi or the network itself to call, but with VoIP costs. This will significantly reduce your bill, and you can enjoy unlimited voice (and sometimes video) calls.
This free app allows iOS users to call internationally at VoIP prices, it’s really easy to use and its calls have the quality of carrier calls. You will never know the difference! So if you are looking for an app that allows you to call your mates in China, look no further!
This app for iOS devices and Android handsets lets you call via Wi-Fi or 3G to international numbers at really low costs. It’s nice to see mobile developers bringing apps for both OS, I still find it hard to understand why some choose only iOS or only Android.
A really nice app for iOS users that allows you to use 3G or Wi-Fi networks to make calls anywhere in the US, although, for international calls, you will need to pay a little, but still, way more cheaper than carrier fees.
Viber is an awesome app that allows Android and iPhone users to make calls over Wi-Fi or send text messages completely free of charge. The app is free on Android Market and iTunes, so go and download it and start talking!
So here they are: The best VoIP services, both hardware and software (including mobile apps). This technology has recently picked up, due to higher bandwidths and better internet connections, and in the near future I expect it to become a real threat to the old outdated PSTN networks.