With the proliferation of wi-fi around the world, it’s making more and more sense for travelers abroad to make free (or very low cost) calls using internet connections instead of the more expensive cellular roaming option.
Much of this is driven by Apple, which has made wi-fi voice calling a prominent feature of its latest batch of phones, meaning that iPhone 6 users can soon opt to circumvent cellular towers entirely by making calls over wi-fi– at home or overseas.
So if you are sick of returning from trips abroad to face inflated phone bills, here are a few ways to use Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol (VOIP) technology to make calls on your smartphones.
Related: Is banning inflight calling really necessary? (check out the LOUD comments!)
Viber – http://www.viber.com/
Viber is one of the most prominent “free text and calls over wi-fi” applications – so prominent, in fact, that the Iranian government called for its censorship this week.
So why the high drama in Iran?
Well, the app allows users to make calls that are far less traceable than those that route through cell towers – and it allows calls to be made to just about anyone, anywhere in the world, even to people who aren’t on Viber. The ayatollahs in Iran don’t like that citizens can use Viber to communicate negatively about the government.
Anyway, here’s how to take advantage of the new “Viber Out” feature on the app:
1) Download the Viber app to your smartphone, install and go through the verification procedure for your personal cell phone number.
2) Enter the verification code, and then decide if you want to connect your address book, and Facebook details – or create your own username. If you don’t want to share anything, just keep clicking no until you get to the main screen.
3) “Viber Out” is the calling feature; it’s at the bottom of the screen under the “Calls” phone icon. Click there, and then dial your number.
4) If you don’t have credit, you’ll be prompted to purchase credit via your app store account. Rates are also accessible from this screen.
With calls to US numbers (both landline and mobile) priced at 1.9 cents per minute, Viber is a steal of a deal. Viber also allows connection to 1-800 numbers in the US, a boon to anyone dealing with mundane life issues back home while spending extended time traveling abroad.
The Viber interface is clean and straightforward, and very useful as a quick and reliable VOIP smartphone solution.
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Skype – http://www.skype.com
Skype is definitely the granddaddy of the VOIP family. The app has been around seemingly since the dawn of digital time, and thus has a solid following and steady reputation with most people.
The advantage to this longevity is that many of your contacts are already likely engaged on the platform, meaning that chats and messaging become more useful with more people you know on it. Nearly everyone has a Skype handle these days.
For calling from your smartphone via VOIP, the newly refreshed app makes it simple.
1) Download and install the Skype app to your smartphone.
2) Login with your desktop details or set up a new account.
3) On the main screen, tap the keypad-esque icon on the left. This will lead you to the dial out screen.
4) Dial your number.
5) If you don’t have credit, you will be prompted to add credit via your app store account.
6) Voila – you know can dial any number for a cheap VOIP call!
The new Skype app is actually quite beautiful, offering a straightforward way to keep track of recent conversations, favorite people, and an overview of your network.
Skype’s rates are actually quite a deal higher than Viber’s (but still cheap compared to cellular calling) – it’s 2.9 cents per minute to call U.S. landlines and mobile phones. A better deal can be had for those regular users to lock in savings with Skype’s clever “Subscriptions” product that charges a flat monthly fee for unlimited calling to a specific region.
Overall, Skype is still trying to remain competitive in a messaging-app heavy world. Subscriptions are a no-brainer for any long-haul road warrior regularly seeking to use a smartphone as a phone inexpensively.
Google Hangouts for calls
This is one that’s going to be a bit of a surprise. Using Google’s Hangout product is a fantastic way to connect with the millions of people that have Google accounts. The product automatically comes with a Gmail account, so that means anyone on that platform is accessible via a wi-fi call.
The advantage here is that Hangouts are seamlessly integrated into the laptop interface as well, making it easy to make calls on the go or via Google while working on a computer. Here’s how to do it.
Calls are free user-to-user, and then are subject to Google Voice rates – which are also free for those calling a number in the United States. An easy win from a larger player that doesn’t always come to mind for VOIP calling.
How do you communicate when outside the US? Have you ever returned home to some painful phone bill surprises? Please leave your comments or advice below!
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