John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Android VOIP options

There are lots of reason to look at alternative methods to make phone calls. Running out of minutes, long distance charges etc. There are a lot of different options available on Android. I’m going to go through a few.

Skype for Android works well, integrates with the contact list on the phone and for free allows skype to skype calling. To make outgoing calls you need to buy a skype out plan and you pay by the minute. There’s no ability to send text messages, the call logs can’t be integrated, and there’s no ability to have an incoming phone number in Canada. You also need to know someone is on Skype and find them. So for me this is an incomplete solution.

Viber was recently pointed out to me as another option. I had a look at it briefly. They’ve have been a little more innovative. What they do is use your phone number as your userid and the way of finding other users. Once loaded it goes through your contact list and sees what other users that you already know are using Viber. You can then easily make point to point Viber to Viber calls. If a user isn’t using Viber then it makes a normal cell call. You can also send Viber to Viber messages. The interface is very iPhone like which is easy to use. Whether you like it or not is a personal decision. Once again, for me this is not a complete solution.

Tango is almost identical to Viber. Tango to tango, includes a scan of your address book for other Tango users but again an incomplete solution because it does not include real incoming or outgoing calls (to non Tango users) or text messages.

Dell Voice (Fongo)
Dell voice is a completely free service that allows you to make and receive VOIP based phone calls. You can get a free phone number in many locations. Local calls and calls within most of Canada are free. And you can buy minutes for long distance plans outside of Canada. So this is a complete solution. The call logs integrate with the default dialer (if you want it to), and it completely integrates with the contacts on your phone. The ap can be setup as the default for outgoing. The program auto starts every time the phone starts. It also reconnects well when connections drop or change (such as changing over to WIFI). It includes voice mail too! I was quite impressed with the call quality, it indistinguishable from a normal cell call (while on a 3G network). The dialer has complete functionality including working with bluetooth, supporting speaker phone and even properly paused and resumed music playback. Quite well done. Battery consumption on standby waiting for calls is minimal, reducing the need to shut it down when not in use.

Dell Voice just added a few nice new features. First it shows you which of your contacts are using Dell Voice. It has also added the ability to use it to send texts both locally and internationally (for a fee) or to other Dell Voice users for free. It has also added some interesting call forwarding options. One of those allows you to simultaneously forward calls to multiple numbers. I really like this feature. And since this is done on the back end is not dependent on Dell voice actually running! And if Dell voice isn’t running when an incoming call comes it … it starts it all on it’s own. Wow.

There’s a new option for Android. MagicJack has had a physical option for a while, now they have an Android ap. They claim you can run it without registering to make outgoing calls. It’s true you can, but it immediately falls into nag mode constantly asking you to register. This is a useless mode. You can register for free and you get a magic jack number that allows incoming calls from other magic jack users. But you don’t get a real phone number so this is an incomplete solution compared to Dell Voice. Additionally, the ap does not help you find other magic jack users. Viber did a better job of that. The ap can use your Android contact list but it does not have a search, does not support Android favorites and the dialer does not do contact lookup. So all in all this is clumsy at best, unusable at worst. I made a couple calls, the first one was good quality with some echo heard. On my end it sounded very good. On the second call the person on the other end said the quality was so bad they asked me to call back on a real phone. Both were done on a 3G/4G connection. I had magic jack disconnect from time to time with no options to manually reconnect. The program does integrate nicely into being able to use it as an alternate to making calls. There’s also no integration of the call logs. The program puts an icon into the notification bar with no way of removing it. This is precious space wasted. All in all, for me, this is very poorly done. Uninsall …

Textme looked promising at first but it gave me an Ottawa number with no choice to change it, then gave me a US number. Whatever algorithm they are using to figure out where your located doesn’t work. And there is no way to delete or change the number once assigned making this a USELESS service.

I’m sure there are other options too, but these are the ones I have played with.

All of these options are obviously dependent on a number of things. First of all some carriers don’t like VOIP for obvious reasons so be sure and check before you start using it. There may be charges. Also it is using your data plan so while it’s data use is low I recorded (2M for 9 mins on the phone) it is using your data plan so watch you don’t go over. Also, when a phone disconnects (for example when you go into a subway or out of range) the data connection can be a little slow to restore. During this time of course you will not be able to receive calls. If you are using a WIFI connection the call quality can be effected by how busy the network is. P2P, torrents and the like can have an impact on quality.


September 4, 2012 - Posted by | Android

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