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When it comes to making phone calls on your iPhone, you’re not limited to the built-in apps and features. There are several alternative free or low cost VoIP to VoIP, video calling, and walkie-talkie-like apps which allow you to make local and international calls. Using one or more of these apps can save you minutes and money with your current voice and text message plans, long distance and international calls, or they can be useful for non-contracted iPhone usage.
To use the apps listed below, you should probably allow push notifications when requested by apps (or enable in Settings > Notification Center) so you can be notified of incoming calls or messages when an app is closed in the background. Most of these apps place and receive calls over Wi-Fi and cellular connections, and most require paid credits for international calls.
New for iOS 7 is FaceTime audio, introducing the ability for iDevice and Mac users to call each other over the FaceTime protocol using just audio, rather than audio and video as in previous iOS incarnations. Not only is this free (it uses data, rather than minutes) but it’s also possible to place these calls over a cellular connection (provided your carrier allows it).
If you have friends you’re regularly calling who also use an iPhone, iPad or Mac then you should consider switching to FaceTime audio for the majority of your calls when possible as the quality will be higher too.
Google Voice (Free)
If you sign up for a free Google Voice account, you can make and receive free phone and text messages to US phones and low rate international calls, using your assigned custom Google Voice number. This article explains more how it works.
The ad-supported Talkatone app uses Google Voice to make free calls within the US and Canada, but without using your cell minutes. You will need to be logged into your Google Account in order to use the app. For $0.99 you can get Talkatone’s ad-free premium services which include multiple accounts, premium support, and higher quality audio for Google Voice-based calls.
Unlike Skype and other VoIP apps described below, Talkatone allows you to call people for free who don’t have the app installed on their mobile phone or who are using a landline.
Yahoo! Messenger allows for free voice and video calls to other Yahoo! Messenger users. You will need to sign up for Yahoo! Voice Phone Out to make calls to people using landlines or other mobile phones not using Yahoo Messenger.
The ad-supported textPlus app gives you unlimited free texting and calling to other textPlus users in the US or Canada, who may be using the app on an Android, Kindle Fire, Windows Phone, Nokia or iOS device. Registering the apps gets you a textPlus phone number to use for free SMS texting to any US or Canadian mobile number. Calling credits to non-textPlus users start at $1.99 for 99 minutes of calling time.
textPlus has super cheap international calling rates, and you can use the app to send voice recorded messages.
Whistle also allows for unlimited calls to and from other Whistle users in the US. It starts you off with 200 free text messages and 20 minutes of free calling in the US. The service provides access to phone calling on Android, desktop Mac and Windows PC and other iOS devices. Pay-as-you-go and monthly rates for calling non-Whistle users start at $0.99 cents and $9.99 per month respectifully.
Fring allows you to make free individual and group “fringOut” calls (including video calls and text messages) to other Fring app users, or you can make in-app purchase credits to make calls to landlines and other mobile phones. It works over Wi-Fi, cellar network, and LTE.
Skype is one of the premium VoIP calling apps. As with the apps described above, you can make free video and voice calls to anyone else using Skype. Skype credit for international calls starts at $4.99.
Voxer Walkie-Talkie (Free)
Voxer is a live push-to-talk app that allows you to connect with others using the app on their iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone. You can send recorded voice or text messages, or stream live voice messages with someone who has the app open and is receiving messages.
The app works on any cellular network or over Wi-Fi. An in-app Pro upgrade of Voxer gets you other features, including Live Interrupt Mode for listening to messages as they arrive and even when you’re out of the app or the screen is locked.
Video Chat Apps
The built-in FaceTime app allows for free video calls over Wi-Fi and some cellular networks like AT&T, and between iPhone and other iOS devices’ users. This article explains how to get up and running with FaceTime on all Apple devices.
Tango allows for pre-recorded and live video messaging with other Tango users for free. After you register with your iPhone phone number, Tango finds who else on your Contact list is already using Tango, as well as users in your nearby location.
Rounds is a video chat hangout platform for registered Facebook users. It allows for unlimited video chatting over Wi-Fi and 3G, and allows users to watch videos and play games together, as well as text messaging, snapping photos, and browsing the web.
Other Apps and Services
In addition to the more popular apps listed above, other options include Talkonaut for peer-to-peer calling over Jingle Audio, AIM, which allows you to chat with friends on AIM, Facebook, and Google Talk, and Google’s own Google Hangouts app, which allows for one-on-one and group conversations. Each of these apps are free.
Let us know what other apps and services you use to make phone calls on your iPhone. Do you use one of the above apps instead of a paid carrier plan? What are the advantages and limitations of using third-party phone apps?
Image Credits: Wesley Fryer Via Flickr