For a long time, Skype was the world leader when it came to VoIP apps. It was so popular, in fact, that “Skyping” became a verb. But with so many complaints of low quality calls, too many crashes, and a general distrust of Microsoft, for many, Skype lost its appeal, despite its recent overhauls.
Since Skype’s heyday, however, many other apps have launched that enable you to call others from your devices. If you’re fed up with Skype then, you might want to try these alternatives.
For something much simpler than Skype, a service like Appear.in might be for you. If you want something with even more features, try out Viber. And then there are all the options in between.
1. Google Hangouts (Web, Android, iOS)
A direct competitor to Skype, offering free user-to-user calls and (mostly) free calls within the U.S. and Canada.
While you could use Hangouts as just another messaging app, that’s the last thing we need. It’s first-and-foremost a way for you to voice and video call up to 10 contacts (simultaneously) on iOS, and Android. The regular Google Hangouts Web app is pretty impressive, too. On your smartphone, this works over data (or Wi-Fi if you’re connected), so calls over Hangouts do not use any of your included minutes.
The contacts that Google Hangouts adds to your account can be both from your phone contacts, and your email contacts. If those contacts are Google Hangout users, you can call them entirely for free. You can call landlines and mobiles from Hangouts, too.
Almost all calls to Canada and the US are entirely free from any country where Hangouts is available. To make other calls though, you’ll have to add some credit to your account., and pay a relatively small per-minute call charge.
2. Appear.In (Web, iOS)
One of the easiest ways to start a voice or video call. No sign ups, no downloads.
If you want an incredibly simple way to start a call, Appear.in is what you’re looking for. You don’t need to sign up to anything. You don’t even need to download anything! There is an iOS app, though, if you’re interested.
Simply create a “Room” link, and share that link with whoever you want to chat with (up to eight people). When a recipient clicks the link, the room will open in their browser (this works on mobile, too).
You can choose to either have a voice or video call, and you can also share your screen. And if you’re worried about privacy, you can “lock” your call to prevent anyone else from joining if they somehow found your unique link.
3. ooVoo (Web, Android, iOS, Windows, Mac)
Like WhatsApp, you can make domestic and international calls too.
Like a lovechild between WhatsApp and Skype, ooVoo is a free cross platform (Android, iOS, Windows, Web) app that allows free calls to other ooVoo users, and paid calls to landlines and mobiles. It’s group video calls are of particularly high quality, which is the main reason it’s included in this list.
If you start a Web-Based ooVoo chat, up to 12 people can join for free, without signing up or downloading anything. All you have to do is send them a unique link. All calls can be recorded, and screens can be shared.
It’s unlikely many of your contacts use the app, but if they do, it also doubles up as a messaging app, where you can record and send text messages and videos. It’s basically like WhatsApp, but also allows calls to landlines and web-based calls to non-users.
Offers free calls and chats between users. Also, includes games, public chats, and calls to mobiles and landlines.
If you make a lot of international calls, Viber is a massively popular ad-free option, available on most platforms including the desktop (on Mac and Linux, too).
Viber offers free text chat, voice and video calls to anyone else who uses the app (which currently has over 800m users). Each call can hold up to 40 people. Other domestic and international calls are charged at a very affordable rate, starting at just over $0.01 per minute.
As well as voice and video calls, you can also send documents and text, image, and video messages via the app. All messages are encrypted.
To differentiate Viber from other options, it also has a decent selection of games so you can challenge your friends to a duel. There are also a range of public chats you can join to keep in contact with your favorite brands and topics.
5. Talky (Web, iOS)
Like Appear.In, an extremely easy way to host a group video chat. No download required.
Just like Appear.in, Talky sells itself as “a truly simple video chat [with] screen sharing for groups”.
Again, simply pick a room name, get a unique URL, then share this URL with up to 15 people. The call is then accessible via each person’s browser (or via the iOS app).
Once a call is live, you can easily turn your webcam or microphone on and off, and chat via text. Once everyone’s online, you can also lock the call for extra privacy.
And again like Appear.In, you can’t use Talky to make international or domestic calls.
6. Voca (Android, iOS)
Free user-to-user calls, and some of the cheapest international calls on the market.
Working through your Wi-Fi or data connection, Voca gives you extremely easy access to very affordable international calls to over 230 countries. For instance, U.S.-to-U.S. calls to landlines and phones cost $0.001. You can find full rates on Voca’s site.
If your friends and family are also using the app, then text, voice, and video calls are completely free, though the app will use your data if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi. For the security conscious, all calls and messages are encrypted.
And, The App You Know About: WhatsApp
Free voice or video calls to any other WhatsApp users (on mobile). But no calls to anyone who’s not on WhatsApp.
And then we have WhatsApp (and its security-obsessed alternatives). Although the app is available on Android, iOS, Windows, Desktop, and Web, WhatsApp calls are only available on Android, iOS and Windows.
It’s popularity in the U.S., Canada, Europe (and elsewhere) has seen the app attract over one billion users. At first, the app was mainly just for messaging your friends. Now it’s grown to also offer voice and video calling. These calls are made via your data plan, not over your network (so you may be charged for using data, but not your included minutes).
When using WhatsApp’s call features, you can only call other WhatsApp users (one person at a time, no group calls). If they don’t have WhatsApp, you can easily send them an invite.
Will You be Abandoning Skype?
Although Skype is usually the default option for calls over the internet, there are many great alternatives out there. These range from the super simple, to the feature-rich, with plenty in between.
Do you think any of these will be good enough for you to start moving away from Skype?
If so, what frustrated you so much about Skype to make you start searching for alternatives?
Originally written by Joel Lee on Sep 7, 2012.
Image Credit: Ditty_about_summer via Shutterstock