Friday, March 28, 2014

Free wifi/data calls on your smartphone, part 2

(Pour le français, allez ici : Les appels de données/wifi gratuits sur votre smartphone, partie 2)

I blogged a long time ago about making free wifi/data calls on your smartphone. Since then, there are thankfully a few easier and better ways to do this:

Google Hangouts/Google Voice

My method of choice involves Google's Hangouts/Voice service. Google Voice was the old name for Google's service that could be used to send and receive free phone calls and send text messages (to the US and Canada), and they're currently rolling it into their Google Hangouts service that does that and more. Even if you don't use Gmail, most everyone has a Google account already, so you probably don't need to sign up for anything extra.

If you're using iOS (iPhone or iPad), it's easy. All you need to do is download the Google Hangouts app: Google Hangouts for iOS.

If you're using an Android device, by May 15th (2014) you should also be able to use the Google Hangouts for Android app to make free calls and texts. In the meantime, though, there are a few other solutions that work just as well:

  • GrooVe IP Lite
    This is the app I ended up using. It's free, works great, and has some settings that let you customize things. In addition, it only handles calls and texts and not Hangouts chats or video calls, so it doesn't interfere with the Hangouts app.

  • Mo+ PHONE for Google Voice
    This app has a nice, clean interface and easy setup. Unfortunately, it had several drawbacks that led me to uninstall it:
    • As soon as I logged in, I started getting all kinds of requests to chat from complete random strangers.
    • This app also handles Hangouts chats, which for some might be a plus, but for me was annoying because they would come in through this app and Hangouts. It wouldn't be so bad if I could have disabled Hangouts functionality in the app, but it has absolutely no settings to configure.
    • The final nail in the coffin is when I tried to actually use it to make a call. The quality wasn't as good as Groove IP Lite, and there was a frustrating lag of several seconds.

  • Talkatone
    This app doesn't work in Canada, so it was an immediate no-go for me. Maybe you'll have better luck.

  • Spare Phone
    This app costs $3, which by itself isn't a bad thing, but it hasn't been updated since June 2013, and I don't see any compelling ways it sets itself apart from the others and merits paying $3 for.

Other ways

Not into Google? Well, there's something for everyone. There is one other app I found that offers free calling and texting to the US and Canada: Mo+. Yes, they're the same ones that also offer an app for free calls through Google Hangouts that I wasn't so happy with. But this one is based on their own service. I haven't bothered using it since I'm happy with Groove IP, but some people might prefer it:
There are other apps out there like TextNow and TextPlus that are similar, but as far as I can tell none of them offer free outgoing calls.

Well, that wraps it up for now. This is one area that's rapidly changing, so I'm sure I'll be blogging about it more in the future. Until then, enjoy making free phone calls!


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