This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time, but first a small warning – this does contain some ‘geek speak’. I’ll try my best to keep it to a minimum – if you want to save yourself some money, read on it though as it might be very worth your while.
If you’ve heard of the phrase ‘voice over IP’ (or VOIP) for short, you might think of programs like Skype, but in reality nearly every phone call you make now is transmitted this way. Your voice is converted into ‘ones and zeros’ (digital representations) once it gets to your central office (exchange) and is carried over IP which is essentially the internet, across town, across country or across the world until it gets to the destination central office when it gets converted back and the person you are talking to hears ‘you’.
A similar process happens with mobile calls but it can cost you much more, especially for international calls. Mobile phone plans ‘bundle’ free calls but of course we all know that they aren’t really free – in Australia a basic no-frills mobile phone plan may only cost you $20 per month but many people pay double or triple that to get their ‘free’ calls on a bundle plan.
So, this is where using Free WiFi or the data included with your phone plan and a VOIP provider can save you a bundle – especially if you are travelling. For example, I was in New Zealand this year on family business and I went to the local Gloria Jeans coffee shop, paid for my cappuccino and muffin and got a free WiFi ticket. I connected and called my wife at home in Australia using my VOIP provider and she even said to me ‘gee this call is clear’ to which I could reply ‘yes and the best part is it’s free!’
VOIP calls don’t require a particularly fast internet connection to work and I’ve made many free calls using free WiFi in coffee shops and shopping malls so if you are a grey nomad for instance it is a great way to keep in touch with family without paying a fortune in mobile calls. If you have a decent data plan on your mobile you could use this to make VOIP calls usually too – I say ‘usually’ because some telcos have been known to block this kind of data use to ensure you use their phone network rather than their data to save yourself money!
Some of the VOIP providers in Australia are MyNetFone, PennyTel and Faktortel – my pick is MyNetFone but shop around to find one that suits you. Most have plans costing less than $10 a month for free or uncapped 10c calls usually anywhere, even internationally. Many have ‘call back’ facilities or other means to make cheap calls without needing WiFi or data at all which makes it even easier to make a call.
Most VOIP providers have an Android app to use with their service, but in my case I found a far better one called Sipdroid which I’ve linked to below.
Setting up a SIP account (which is what VOIP uses) is very easy, you just enter the details they provide including your username/password and leave the default settings alone and usually it just works. I like Sipdroid personally because it integrates well with the phone and can use your phone’s contact list so making a call is simple.
So, if you would like to give it a go, just sign up with a VOIP provider (most have no lock-in contracts) and try it out. If it suits you then the next step would be to see if you can get a better (ie: cheaper) mobile plan either with your existing telco or switch to another.
Price : FREE
Size : 1.0Mb
Needs : Android 2.0+