While everybody has recently heard of the news that Microsoft bought Skype in a $8.5 billion deal, and Voice over IP telephony has gained once more some publicity, nobody knows of the several options for communication over the internet. While Skype can easily be considered as the most popular or even the most famous, there also other services that can be considered. Perhaps, there’s probably no one service that provides a feature-for-feature replacement for Skype, there are plenty that offer great VoIP and video calling services, some of which are even better than Skype’s. Let’s take a look at the options
- Skype. We could not provide you with all VoIP options with some information about Skype. It began its service using computers and has now expanded to mobiles. You can make free calls as well as send messages over a Wi-Fi or 3G connection. The Skype calling experience is good and Skype is always user-friendly and you call almost any phone or any computer for free providing they have Skype. You can always buy credits to call regular phones although some think it is a little expensive.
- Google Voice. Voice is Google’s phone service, which launched to much fanfare in March 2009. It provides free PC-to-PC voice and video calls, free PC-to-phone calls within the U.S. and cheap calls elsewhere (for users in the U.S. only). One of Google Voice’s most useful features (again, only available to U.S. residents) is that it enables users to have one number that they can use anywhere — any calls placed to that number will ring all of the users’ configured phones. The service also provides a range of useful additional features, such as voicemail, SMS, conference calling, call screening and transcription of voicemail messages, while it also allows calls to be done within your browser from Gmail, Google Plus, etc
- Vbuzzer. A VoIP and IM service that, unlike Skype, is based on open protocols like XMPP and SIP. It offers free PC-to-PC calls, as well as paid-for PC-to-phone calls, with typically cheaper rates than Skype. It also features voicemail, call forwarding, caller ID, web conferencing and fax service.
- VoxOx. VoxOx is trying to be an “all-in-one” messaging app for both the desktop and mobile devices. It combines phone calls, IM, SMS, video chat, conference calling and even fax. It also provides similar “one number anywhere” functionality to Google Voice, and outgoing calls can be placed at competitive rates. The iPhone app is interesting because rather than relying on VoIP, it uses callbacks — the service can ring you on any convenient nearby phone line.
- Viber. iPhone users looking for a way to make free VoIP calls should take a look at Viber, a VoIP app that allows iPhone-to-iPhone calling over 3G and Wi-Fi connections. The app is free, runs in the background, doesn’t have any ads and won’t charge you anything to make calls. Android was recently supported and a BlackBerry app is apparently in the works, which extend the app’s reach significantly.When installed, it scans your address book and connects you with other Viber users with no need for user names and email verifications. User ID is the phone number. It allows you to send free text messages to other Viber users. Make SMS, or email using Wi-Fi connectivity. Viper boasts of its call quality with clear audio and no lags.
- Nimbuzz. Nimbuzz started as a Free Calls, Chat and Messaging solution for your mobile phone, supporting iPhones, BlackBerries, Androids and feature phones that run Java apps, but it is now available on PC & Mac and there is even a web based version. Get you and your friends registered with an account on Nimbuzz and you get everything you need to communicate – and it’s all free. You can import friends from Facebook, My Space, Yahoo, MSN Messenger, AIM, ICQ, GoogleTalk, and HYVES as well as SIP VoIP accounts. It allows you to send text messages, music, photos, and video files to other Nimbuzz users. Free calls are HD voice with Wi-Fi or 3G-quality connectivity. Yes, you do have to register and calls are only free to Nimbuzz users. Landlines or other mobile lines will include a charge.
- Grasshopper. Looking for a step up from Skype to a more business-oriented virtual phone system? Grasshopper provides many of the features found in expensive office PBX systems for a fraction of the cost, including support for multiple users, each with their own extension, individual greetings, voicemail, web access and notifications by email or text message, as well as the ability to have local or toll-free numbers for people to call you on. The type of advanced functionality you get comes at a higher cost than consumer-focused offering like Google Voice and Skype, however, with a range of plans available.
- 8×8 Virtual Office Pro/Solo. 8×8 provides another useful VoIP-based virtual business phone system. It’s available in two editions, Virtual Office Pro for businesses requiring multiple extensions, and Solo for individuals. The system includes business numbers, voicemail, call waiting, music on hold, caller ID, three-way calling and the ability to record calls for storage as digital audio files. It costs $49.99 per extension per month for the Pro Edition or $7.99 per month for the Solo edition.
- Tango.Tango allows you to make free phone calls and free video calls over 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi. Make calls to any other person who has Tango installed on their phone anywhere in the world for free. Start a Tango call with just voice, and easily move into a video call when you have something to share. Save money when calling your friends abroad by inviting them to use Tango. Features: – Free phone calls to other Tango members- Free video calls over 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi- Free international calls- Call between Android and iOS phones and tablets – Start a phone call with Tango and switch to a video call when you have something to show.Soon to be available on PC
While some of the options listed above, like Google Voice, provide video calling as part of the services they offer, there are also some dedicated video chat apps:
- Fring. Fring is a mobile oriented solution offering voice calling, chat, and video calling right from your mobile device. It is different from other apps in that it has the video capability to make video calls with up to four people because of its DVQ technology. Free calls are available through 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi Fring users worldwide. Since Fring is available for Android, iOs, Nokia and via a mobile browser, you can call all of your friends who have the Fring app so enjoy this app, which, by the way, has good reviews from it’s users.
- Tinychat. For multiuser video chats, Tinychat is great. It’s dead simple to use, requires no login, and has a clean interface. It’s Flash-based, so it should work in most browsers and up to 12 people can join a video chat simultaneously. The basic service is free.
- ooVoo. ooVoo also provides free multiuser (up to six people simultaneously) video chat, and has clients available for Mac, PC and a wide range of mobile devices. It even allows for high-quality video calling over 3G wireless networks.
- FaceTime. Apple’s video chat application is no longer just for iPhone users. With the launch of FaceTime for Mac in February, it works on Macs and any iOS device with a forward-facing camera, it makes it possible to place Mac-to-Mac, Mac-to-iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, and iPhone/iPod touch/iPad -to-iPhone/iPod touch/iPad calls. Video quality is high, supporting up to 720p resolution on more recent Macs.
- Yahoo Messenger. It appears than in Asia Yahoo messenger is big with their IM app being the first choice for many users. A mobile version is much the same, with yahoo stating that “Whether you have a smartphone, or standard feature phone, if you have a data plan, Yahoo! for mobile services can run on your phone”. Still not all version on all devices support the same features, so it depends whether you can make calls or video calls or simply chat. Still Yahoo can send free international SMS, chat on Facebook and other cool features.
What are your favorite VoIP Options? Have we missed an interesting one? What would think is a true alternative to Skype?