Do you want to make free calls to someone in the United States, but don’t have an American number yourself? You’re in luck. These two apps will help you do exactly that.
All you need is an Android phone or tablet with a WiFi or 3G/4G data connection, and you can start making calls to your American friends in no time. This is a great method for those living outside the US to reach loved ones inside, or for people living in the US to make domestic calls without paying an expensive monthly bill to a wireless carrier.
So many apps promise “free calls and texts” only for you to find out once you download it that this only applies to other users with the same app (think Skype to Skype calling) and all calls to real phone numbers require a small fee. Well, these apps are different. You can call real American phone numbers and have your own American number to receive calls from — all over the Internet for free.
The first up on this list is MagicApp, from the makers of Magic Jack. This handy little app only requires you to create an account using your email address to get started. Once you verify who you are through the email, you’re all good to go. You can immediately start making free calls to any US number.
There are no ads, and the interface is gorgeous. As you can see above, the background is a faded blue with light, modern fonts and simplistic icons. It’s incredibly easy to use and works just like a regular phone app, having tabs for recent calls, your contacts (which are automatically imported from your phone), account information, a keypad, and voicemail.
One of the more annoying aspects, however, is a constant notification that appears as soon as the app starts running. This is to let you know that MagicApp is on and you can be receiving calls at any time, but for those of us who like to keep our notifications bars empty and clean, it’s quite an annoyance that it cannot be removed.
One odd thing I did encounter while using the app, however, was that the number it showed me under my account was not the actual number I needed to give others to call me — not even close. My real MagicApp number was easy enough to find; I just had to call someone else and ask them what number showed up on Caller ID. That number is completely randomly generated, not allowing the user any selection, but it works!
Do note, though, that you cannot receive calls to your MagicApp number unless you have placed a call to that person in the past. If someone you’ve never called attempts to call you, they’ll only hear a polite robotic voice tell them that they need the MagicApp user to call them first.
To get the most out of the app, you’ll need to call all of your friends and family right off the bat so that they can later reach you at that number. If your intent is just to use this number with close friends and family, this could actually be a decent way of cutting down on spam calls.
Also, this app is only for calling. You won’t be able to send text messages. For texting, check out the next app in this list.
Talkatone, while less attractive of an app, is actually more functional. After the initial setup, which requires email verification just like MagicApp, you’re plopped into this dull interface that looks like a mashup between Android 2.3 Gingerbread and iOS 6.
However, looks aside, this app kills in the features department.
During setup, Talkatone allows you to kind of pick the number you want. I say kind of because you first need to search for an area code and hope that there are available numbers for that area code — there’s no master list of available numbers to pick from. But it is more number selection that MagicApp gives you, and the number you choose for Talkatone is 100% accurate — unlike my experience with MagicApp.
Talkatone also has a persistent notification, but this one is actually useful. It’s an actionable notification, meaning that tapping on the upper part will open the app, while tapping the lower part will close it. The actionable part is the ability to close the app from the notification tray, which is pretty cool. Thankfully, you can also disable the notification completely in the settings
The tabs along the top are very similar to MagicApp’s — automatically imported contacts, some favorites, a dialer. But Talkatone’s standout feature is the ability to send and receive text messages to other US number for free.
That in addition to the fact that anyone can call your Talkatone number at any time (without you needing to call them first), makes Talkatone an incredibly viable option for essentially emulating a regular American phone number.
You do get ads in Talkatone, but they’re banner ads that stay along the bottom and are rather unobtrusive.
Which Is The Best?
Talkatone easily takes the cake here, but only thanks to its extra features like text messages, the ability to receive calls from people you haven’t called yet, and the ability to remove the persistent notification. Aesthetically, MagicApp is a nicer-looking app, and I could see why some might choose it over Talkatone.
Google Voice should also be noted here because even though it requires a US number to activate it, it’s a great way to stop using up your minutes and text messages. Unfortunately, while iOS has add the ability to make calls from Google Voice for a while now, Android users still have to rely on third party alternatives like Mo+.
What is your favorite method of making free calls to real phone numbers? I’d be particularly interested in hearing if there any options for calling internationally or outside the US. Be sure to leave me a comment below!