If you want a home phone for personal calls, or if you run a very small, home-based business, you might be fully satisfied with a very low cost VoIP solution from Skype or Google. While there are many VoIP service providers that target residential and small business clients, few people actually need premium VoIP service. The telephony services offered by Skype, which is now owned by software giant Microsoft, and Google Voice are of excellent quality in general, assuming that your broadband Internet connection is fast and reliable. Many individuals have decided to cut off their residential phone service altogether in the last few years. Instead, they simply use a mobile phone together with a very inexpensive VoIP solution. As unlimited calling plans are now very common among mobile providers, many individuals will use their cellphone for local calls and VoIP for cheap international calling. Some also subscribe to a cheap VoIP service to get a second phone number that they use for a home-based business.
Skype and Google Voice – Comparing the Two
Even though they both provide the same basic service, Skype and Google Voice differ in their pricing structures. Using Google Voice is free and so is calling from the US to the US. Calling landlines in other countries is two cents per minute and calling mobiles internationally is ten cents per minute. Skype originated as a service that allowed people to call other computers for free. They still retain this aspect of their service and have added good quality video calling. The SkypeOut feature lets users make unlimited calls to many regions of the world for just $13.99 per month. However, certain countries aren't covered, so it's always a good idea to verify if the country you want to call is on the list. Here is a more detailed overview of both services and their associated costs.
Skype offers several calling plans that are designed to suit the needs of their subscribers. Making PC to PC audio or video calls is always free, which is a great way to cut out on long distance calling costs altogether. Those who want to call regular phone numbers will need to select from one of the Skype plans. A subscription for $2.99 per month allows unlimited calls to the United States and per-minute calling to other countries. For example, making a call to India costs 1.5 cents per minute, while calling Ireland is 2.3 cents per minute. This $2.99 plan is an optimal choice for those who rarely make international calls and mostly talk to people in the United States. To receive calls, you will need to get a Skype number, which costs $5 per month. You will get a number that allows people to call you from any regular landline or mobile phone. However, this is optional, so if you don't need to receive calls, you can just skip on this feature and use Skype simply to make outgoing calls. Of course, Skype also works with iOS and Android devices. You can therefore download a mobile app that will allow you to use the service on a compatible smartphone.
Just like many other popular Google services such as Gmail, Google Voice is free. Every user that signs up for Google Voice is assigned a US phone number that they can use to receive calls through Gmail or the Hangouts app. They can also forward their calls for free to any US phone number, like a landline or mobile phone. Placing calls from the US to the US is free and making international calls to most destinations is very cheap. For example, calling a mobile phone in France or Germany costs ten cents per minute, while calling a mobile phone in India would be just two cents per minute. Unlike Skype, Google Voice doesn't have any flat rate plans for international calling. If you're not available, Google Voice can forward calls to a voicemail box. One interesting feature is that the service can transcribe voicemail messages and allow you to read them as email. Of course, voice recognition isn't always perfect, especially if the caller has an accent or if there is a lot of background noise, but this is an interesting feature nonetheless. Another feature that Google Voice offers is the ability to send and receive text messages, just like you would on an ordinary mobile phone. Like Skype, Google Voice offers apps that will work on iOS and Android devices such as mobile phones and certain tablets. Even though Skype is the most popular service when it comes to video calling (many people will now say “Skype Me!” when they want a video chat), Google Voice offers video calling and conferencing through its Hangouts feature as well.
Are Low-Cost VoIP Services Good Enough?
Up to around two years ago, one common complaint about low-cost VoIP service providers like Skype is that the call quality was often severely lacking. Problems such as not being able to hear the other party properly, dropped calls, as well as garbling effects that made you sound like a robot or character from Star Wars were common user complaints. But both Google and Skype have improved their service tremendously to the point that most calls should be as clear as a regular landline or mobile phone call, assuming that your Internet connection is fast and reliable, of course. You might still run into a few call quality problems now and then, but they are nowhere near as frequent and have a simple solution: just hang up and call again. What this means is that for most people, having a mobile phone together with a low-cost VoIP service will be good enough. Getting a premium VoIP service may be recommended for those who use their Internet phone to conduct serious business deals, where a dropped call or bad quality connection could have a serious impact on their professional image. Also, small businesses that may need additional features like those offered by an IP PBX (multiple extensions, ring groups, music on hold, multiple voicemail boxes, fax to email, etc.) would probably not be satisfied with the limited services offered by Skype and Google Voice. If these usage cases apply to you, there are quite a few premium VoIP providers that offer higher quality, feature packed services, while still costing much less than what you would pay for traditional landline phone service.