The Best VoIP Apps for Smartphones
With the surge in smartphone usage all around the world, more and more of people’s everyday communication with each other has been switching from traditional voice minutes and SMS messages to voice calls and messaging powered by data plans. Using the data plan for communication makes more sense simply because of how cheap it is. A typical phone plan with voice minutes will give a person anywhere from 350 to 500 minutes and anywhere from a few hundred to 1000 or unlimited SMS messages. With a data plan, even a 1GB plan will net over 1000 minutes worth of calls and thousands upon thousands of messages while on the go, and an unlimited number of minutes and messages when connected to a WiFi network. Simply put, it’s just cheaper and more practical to use a data plan in the long run.
Due to these trends, applications for voice calling and messaging over data exploded everywhere. There are more than a hundred different applications for every mobile platform. So then how do you filter out the best ones from all these? That’s where I come in to help you out. Here is a list of the most popular communication applications out right now including one newcomer.
The first communication application on this list is the newcomer Global Call. As this is a new application, it is currently only available for iOS and Android.
The concept behind this application seems to be simplicity. There is only one function, and that is to be able to call any phone number, whether it is a land line or a mobile phone, within a limited number of countries (there are plans to expand the number of countries in the future). Unlike Viber and Kakaotalk, recipients of calls or messages are not required to have the applications themselves. In this way, it is very similar to Skype’s ability to call land lines. Global Call will utilize your data, but the recipients will receive the calls and text messages through their voice minutes and SMS. And that’s all it does. So then what’s so great about this application? Two words: Price. Point. Global Call undercuts every mobile VoIP application in terms of price. Users will have to purchase credits, and those credits will be used up at a flat rate based on the country they are calling. However, due to the cheaper price point compared to Skype, your money will go much further, which is perfect for someone who makes the occasional international call. While Skype may be cheaper over all if you constantly need to make calls to land lines overseas, this is not the case for most people. You also have the option to charge credit on your account as you go and monitor your usage unlike Skype where you have to pay a monthly bill.
As of now, there is very limited usage of this application as it is still in its nascent stages of launching. However, since you are able to call people regardless of whether or not they have a smart phone or the same program, this is probably the cheapest way you will be able to make a standard call overseas.
There are so many applications out there that it’s hard to choose which one is best. Hopefully this list will give you some insight on your own needs and help you choose which one is best for you.
My Grade: A
Much like what Google did for search engines, Skype did for video chatting. Nowadays, Skype is a household word synonymous with video chatting. I’m sure most people who don’t even use Skype know what Skype is, and I’m also sure many people have said or heard “Skype me”, meaning to video chat.
Skype is available on most platforms, which includes Android, iOS, Blackberry, Symbian, PC and Mac. The user interface is clean and simple, and with a sufficiently fast smart phone, the entire experience is very smooth. Since this application is cross platform, you can voice chat, video chat, and message anyone else with the Skype application for free. In addition to the free stuff, there is also the option for paid subscriptions for VoIP services. You can purchase Skype credits in order to make calls to landlines and mobile phones, either at a flat rate (per country) or with a subscription that will give you either a limited number of minutes to landlines and mobiles or unlimited landline and mobile calls to a limited number of countries. In addition, most of the prices are for individual countries, but there is one option for unlimited calling and text to many countries around the world. The prices for these services will range from $3 to $5 a month and upwards to $14 for the unlimited world subscription.
The voice quality and the overall experience with Skype are excellent. Also, the fact that you can use your computer with the same account as your phone is great. However, it does seem a little expensive considering these prices are in addition to what you would normally pay monthly for your phone. Another thing to note is that you must sign into Skype in order to use make free calls with others using Skype. It may seem like a minor point, but it can make a big difference depending on the user (I will get into this later).
If you make international calls often, Skype is certainly much cheaper than calling directly and not as inconvenient as using an international calling card. However, Skype’s price points may still seem a little steep to some.
My Grade: B
Next in line is Viper, an application touted to give Skype a run for its money. It is available on pretty much all mobile platforms, which includes Android, BlackBerry OS, iOS, Series 40, Symbian, Bada, and Windows Phone. While Viber is compatible with more mobile operating systems than Skype, there is no PC or Mac version. In addition, video chatting is not available.
Registration with Viber simply requires your phone number and SMS verification. The application will sync with your contacts and list out everyone else on your contact list that uses Viber themselves. The major difference between Skype and Viber, however, is the fact that Viber does not have any means of calling land lines – or anyone who does not use Viber themselves for that matter. In this regard, Skype has a leg up on Viber. However, what Viber has that Skype doesn’t is the ability to run quietly in the background without having to sign in. As mentioned before, free calls with Skype require that you sign into your account and the recipients of any calls or texts to be signed in as well. Therefore, Skype must run continuously if you don’t want to miss any calls, which is a huge drain on battery life (this is the point I was talking about earlier). Viber, on the hand, simply needs to be installed, and even if the application is not actively running, Viber will recognize if another Viber user is calling you and deliver a notification that you are receiving a call.
Arguably, the call quality on Viber is not as good as Skype. However, the fact that it won’t be a continuous drain on your battery yet still always being “on” is a big, big plus.
My grade: B-
Kakaotalk is currently a rising star among data-based communication applications. It is available in for Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, and Bada.
In terms of voice and messaging, Kakaotalk works in the exact same way as Viber. However, that is not to say that they are the same program. A major difference comes from registration. While the initial registration works the exact same way as Viber, there is an additional option to register a username and password, which serves a few functions. First, it allows you to add friends with their username in the event you don’t have their phone number. Registering a username and password will also retain your Kakaotalk contact list onto its servers in the event that you change your phone and/or number. And lastly, it will create a Kakaotalk profile that works, in a way, like a micro social media site so that people on your contacts list can view pictures that you upload.
Your Kakaotalk profile has a myriad of customization options from changing the font to changing the background image of individual chats or chatrooms. You may purchase different emoticons and themes from their built-in app store. In addition, in some countries such as South Korea (where the creators of Kakaotalk is based), games are available for download and works much like the way Facebook does in that you may need to ask your friends who also play the game to send you lives in order to progress through it.
Overall, Kakaotalk is much richer in features than Viber. However, while 50 million users is nothing to sneeze that, it doesn’t even have a third of the number of users that Viber does.
My grade: B+