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Cost-cutting is all the rage at the moment. Whether you want to replace your cable TV service with free Internet streams, find places you can rent free DVDs, or sign up to one of the hundreds of on-demand video services, you can easily find savings in your home services setup if you’re willing to look hard enough.
Justin recently claimed Skype was an alternative to landlines when he took a detailed look how to ditch your outrageous phone bills – but is Microsoft’s service too expensive?
While it’s true that Skype is still the undisputed king of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) in terms of subscriber numbers, there are plenty of other excellent options out there.
Here we take a look at four alternatives, focusing on how much they cost and what services you can expect in return.
Skype – The Benchmark
Skype is the VoIP benchmark. We’ve looked at the service lots of times on MakeUseOf, but before we look at its competitors we still need to review what it’s currently offering.
Skype offers two methods of payment for most countries – either Skype Credit (pay-as-you-go), or via a subscription. Sneakily, Skype doesn’t make its rates for different countries very easy to compare – instead you have search by country and can only see one location at a time.
If you purchase a subscription, 60 minutes of talk time to U.S. phones will cost you $1.04-per-month (1.7 cents-per-minute). An unlimited package costs $6.99-per-month.
By way of comparison, 60 minutes of talk time to UK phones costs $2.09-per-month (3.5 cents-per-minute). There is no UK-only unlimited package – instead you need to purchase the Unlimited Europe option. It’s $19.99-per-month and only includes calls to the UK, France, Spain, Italy, and Germany.
If you use Skype Credit, a call to any US phone is 2.3 cents-per-minute. A call to a UK landline is also 2.3 cents-per-minute, but a call to a UK mobile jumps to a mammoth 10 cents-per-minute.
Skype’s list of features is impressively long. Aside from the obvious, it also offers group calling for up to 25 people and free video calling for up to five people to free users. Subscribers can also get a “Skype number” connected to their account so that people can call from their own phones, the ability to forward calls to any number, a caller ID service, and a voicemail service.
Check out the website for a full list of services.
OoVoo has been steadily gaining in popularity since its launch back in 2007. Like Skype, it offers free video calls and instant messaging, but here we take a look at the paid services.
OoVoo’s rates are the same no matter where you are calling from, which is a big plus if you live in an obscure place or are spending a long time travelling.
Unlike Skype, it doesn’t offer subscriptions, and works through “ooVoo Credits” instead. A call to a United States landline will cost you 2 cents-per-minute, as will a call to a US mobile.
Calls to a UK landline are slightly cheaper, coming in at 1.9 cents-per-minute, though calls to mobiles will set you back 3.9 cents-per-minute.
It also offers a “Premium” version. It costs $2.99-per-month but includes 1,000 minutes of video call storage, no in-app adverts, and an ad-blocker for multiple platforms.
OoVoo has a good range of free services, including unlimited free text and video messaging to anywhere in the world, 12-way video calls on your computer, and 4-way video calls on mobiles or tablets.
It does have some drawbacks, however. For example, credits support outbound dialing only, when you call someone the Caller ID will always be 646-300-8760, and you cannot get your own personally assigned inbound ooVoo telephone number.
Google Hangouts is hardly a new service, but it has really started to pick up steam in the last 12 months. Its VoIP service is now arguably more reliable than Skype, and it’s certainly cheaper.
Like ooVoo, Hangouts doesn’t offer subscriptions, instead opting for an entirely credit-based model.
If you live in the US and you want to call another US (or Canadian) phone, it’s almost always free. There are certain US-based numbers that’ll incur a charge of 1 cent-per-minute, but it’s still much cheaper than Skype’s entry price of 1.7 cents.
A UK landline will also cost you 1 cent-per-minute, while a call to a UK mobile is only 3 cents-per-minute – 7 cents cheaper than Skype’s pay-as-you-go rate.
The first thing to mention is availability. While Skype can make outbound calls from almost any country in the world, Hangouts is much more limited. In fact, if you live outside of Europe, the US, and Canada, the chances are the service won’t be available.
Services offered include free video-conferences for up to nine people, free caller ID (if you have a Google Voice number), and free text messaging.
Vonage is a true VoIP service – if you sign up to its service you’ll receive a phone adapter in the post which will let you plug your existing house phone straight into your high-speed Internet line.
Vonage differs from the previous two options in that it only offers subscription packages. It’ll set you back $9.99-per-month if you’re willing to sign up to a year’s service, and $24.99-per-month for a contract-free deal.
That rate will get you unlimited free calling across the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. An international call to the UK will cost 1 cent-per-minute for landlines and 2 cents-per-minute for mobiles.
Vonage offers lots of cool services not offered by the Internet-based providers on this list. For example, you can keep your existing landline number, you can link your home phone service to two smartphones, there’s free calling to all other Vonage users, and you can keep the same phone number if you move house. You also get a virtual number, a fax line, and call forwarding.
PhonePower is a direct competitor of the better-known Vonage, but has at least two major advantages.
The first big advantage is that its service is cheaper. Its 12 month contract is only $8.33-per-month, while its contract-free option is only $19.95-per-month.
Those cheaper rates will also give you more for your money – they include 60 minutes of free international calls every month.
If you use all your free minutes, the landline rate to call the UK comes in at a staggeringly cheap 0.4 cents-per-minute. It easily makes it the most cost-effective of the all services listed if you need to call your transatlantic cousins regularly.
PhonePower also offers some “World” packages. For $19.95-per-month (12 month contract) you can get unlimited calls to 25 countries around the world. For $5 more you can increase that to 75 countries.
The second big advantage is one of the services they offer – namely, it lets you make phone calls from your computer via a softphone app without charging extra to do so.
Like Vonage, you can keep your existing phone number (at no charge), you’ll be able to plug your existing handset straight into the Internet by using an adapter, and there’s a smartphone app which will also ring if your landline is ringing.
Will You Abandon Skype?
Have we convinced you to abandon your fixed landline (or find a cheaper alternative to Skype?). Perhaps you’ve already taken the jump and can provide some feedback to our readers?
As ever, we’d love to hear from you. You can leave us your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.