Saturday, 18 February 2012

How to Make Free Phone Calls To the US and Canada on iOS and Android.

If you’ve taken a look at Web-based phone options, you’ve probably heard of Vonage. Vonage has been a leader in the world of VOIP (Voice Over IP) telecommunications for years, and now they’re making giant strides forward in the world of smartphones. Whether you’re on iOS or Android, you’re you will definitely want to take a look at what Vonage has done now.

No accounts, no logins, no passwords. Vonage Mobile gives you access to its calling service with nothing more than your mobile number and an email address. I was able to download the app, get it set up, and make my first two free phone calls without using my minutes in less than a few minutes. Not only that, but it has a built-in option to make texting to my friends and family free, which really kicks the tail of any of those favorite friends plans carriers limit their customers with.

we have a morning meeting that can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour each day. Members of our team can participate by phone or by application. There is rarely any need for video during the meetings, so most of our team opt to use phones to participate. The downside of this is that it takes minutes to make calls, and those minutes can add up to hours very quickly over the course of the month. This is where a service like Vonage Mobile can really come in handy.

So, what does this iPhone and Android calling app actually bring to the table?

Call Quality:

Call quality is a big deal, especially when you’re communicating over VOIP. Echos, static, lossy sound quality, and just plan unreliable service has given VOIP over mobile devices a bad name over the years. Vonage may not be the the first service to offer free text messaging and calls to mobile devices, but it is has certainly done its due diligence to set itself ahead of the pack.

Vonage offers what it calls “high-def” voice quality. This means that calls made with the service will typically sound better than those made using traditional calling methods.

During a test call to my wife, she noted that it sounded quite good, and she was on a regular line. In the world of audio, a better source typically creates a better output if all other factors are the same, and this is certainly the case with Vonage Mobile. I also did a few more test calls to various users across several carriers, and the results were consistent on the majority of the test calls.

In-App Credit Purchases and Calling Rates:

If you want to make an international call (calls to the US and Canada are free for a limited time right now) you can do at comparatively low rates, but what sets Vonage Mobile apart from its competitors is just how easy it is to make in-app credit purchases. Skype currently does not offer this service, making you switch over to the browser and navigate through multiple pages to get to a point where you can purchase more minutes. With Vonage, it’s literally a tap of the screen.

You can purchase credit in increments of $4.99 and $9.99 as often as you need. The amount it taken directly out of your iTunes account.

There is no sticker shock for the per-minute rates being offered by Vonage. At $.010 cents per minute (that’s 1/10 of a cent), Vonage is charging less than half that of its biggest competitor. On average, Vonage has managed to offer 30% lower per-minute rates to the top 50 International long distance countries in the world. It’s hard to argue with numbers, especially when the word free is currently being applied to the US and Canada.

User Experience:

User experience is at the heart of any successful app for either iOS or Android. I’d always believed that phone apps are unavoidably bad here as I’ve yet to come across an interface that was truly simple or easy to use. Vonage has done a fairly good job here, and when you compare it to Skype, they’re worlds apart.

Text messages are especially clear and easy to follow with chat bubbles taking the place of the “wall of text” effect so many other chat applications for either platform fall into. Texting with a fellow Vonage user looks and feels natural, especially if you’re used to the iOS platform.

One thing Vonage has clearly kept in mind when designing Vonage Mobile is that less is more when it comes to steps someone needs to take to get something done on their mobile device. Adding people to your contacts list is automatic and based on your phone’s contact list. Vonage detects whether or not that person is a Vonage user, and as such makes special features available to you with a tap of the screen.

Making and receiving Vonage calls and text messages with fellow users is absolutely free. You can invite members of your contact list individually or in a group via email or text message in seconds. By comparison, Skype requires eight steps in many cases.

Overall: The Vonage app features a clean interface that allows you to make a call and go about your day with as little hassle as possible.

Final Thoughts:

There are several reasons you might want to consider adding a VOIP service to your mobile phone. Being out of the country, you often have to make the tough choice of either spending money for an International sim card or taking advantage of a VOIP service via Wi-Fi or 3G/4G data. This also saves you the hassle of number changes when traveling overseas which can make it very difficult for someone to contact you when they really need to. Oh, and did I mention that local US and Canada rates still apply, even when you’re calling from the heart of Australia.

When you call someone using Vonage, your friends and family will still see your actual number appear on caller ID. This avoids confusion and makes it easier to send and receive calls, no matter what carrier someone may be going through.

You don’t need to put a penny down to enjoy the perks of the service. I made several phone calls without adding a dime to my Vonage account, and shouldn’t need to in the immediate future.

Over all: Vonage Mobile is a great way to save money. I’ve written time and time again about saving money by bypassing the often expensive bounds of traditional phone plans. After having tried virtually every trick in the book, Vonage may well sit on top of a very short list of recommended tricks to keep more money in your pocket, and less in the pockets of your carrier.

Download Vonage Mobile for your iPhone or Android device today and give it a try for yourself. Make a few test calls and tell us what you think.

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