When Skype emerged several years ago, it was all the rage. The possibility of making free high-quality phone calls excited our ultraconnected world. Faster Internet connections meant you could clearly and instantly transmit your voice from one computer to another.
Along with Skype, programs like iChat, Google Talk, and various other Messenger services emerged to turn your computer into a telephone.
Simultaneously, smartphones became more advanced and gained popularity. We realized that it might be possible to combine these two technologies to create an incredible new service. If we can put these programs on our cellphones, then connect to Wi-Fi networks, we should be able to make free calls from our cellphones to anyone.
Unfortunately, if you’ve spent even a brief time navigating the world of free Internet phone calls, you know that it’s just not that simple. The technology is rapidly changing, and programs that allow Internet calling differ in what they offer.
I’ve sifted through some of the most popular and lesser known Internet calling programs to give you an idea of the benefits and drawbacks of each. I will also explain how to make free phone calls on your iPhone or Android by tapping into the Internet on your cellphone.
Skype. This is probably the best known Internet calling service, with an average of 124 million users per month. On a fast Internet connection, the sound quality can be incredibly impressive. You can call other Skype users for free, but if you want to call regular phone numbers within the U.S., you have to pay about 2.3 cents a minute (less with a subscription option).
Google Voice. I’m a big fan of Google Voice because of its integration with Gmail and other Google services. It offers free text messages. It also provides a voice mailbox, and it creates a transcript of any voice mail and forwards it to your Gmail account. Unfortunately, it does not save you money on cellphone calls because it uses your regular cellphone network to place calls.
Freephone2phone. If you can put up with listening to a 10- to 12-second ad before making your call, you can get a free 10-minute call to land lines in 55 countries. You dial a local number found on Freephone2phone.com. You listen to an ad, then place your call. The sound quality is very good.
Line2. This gives your phone a second line with its own phone number. For $10 a month, you can call over Wi-Fi when it’s available. One downside is, it takes about 15 seconds for the program to recognize the available Wi-Fi.
The programs mentioned above all provide helpful services with differing benefits and drawbacks. If you are looking for free text messaging on your phone, perhaps download Google Voice. If you need to make only short phone calls and can bear listening to brief ads, perhaps go with Freephone2phone. However, these programs by themselves don’t allow you to tap into a Wi-Fi network on your cellphone and make a free call to regular phone numbers