Increasingly, smartphone users are turning to VoIP apps to circumnavigate expensive SMS text messaging rates and voice fees.
More than 45 percent of consumers with a smartphone use some form of instant messaging or over-the-top messaging in addition to traditional text messaging, according to a recent survey by Analysys Mason. In the survey, about 20 percent of VoIP users used mobile VoIP more than traditional voice services.
And, while OTT phone services probably won’t replace traditional business phone systems in the near future, Ovum — a global analyst firm — predicts it will cost telecommunications companies worldwide $479 billion in lost revenue by 2020.
Operators are starting to respond to the trend by switching their fee structure from offering users unlimited data if they pay for calls and texts to offering unlimited calls and texts if they pay for data — which could negate any cost savings smartphone users might gain from using VoIP apps.
Still, you’ll save plenty of dough for your small business in the near future by trying out any of these recent additions to the VoIP apps market:
1. Pinger – This update of the “TextFree” app offers Android users free texting and incoming calls in the U.S. and Canada anywhere you have network access. Users can buy inexpensive minutes for outgoing calls from GooglePlay, or earn free minutes by watching promoted videos and downloading recommended apps. In addition, Pinger offers a free second phone line, group messaging, and the ability to communicate with other Pinger members worldwide for free. Business owners will love the feature that organizes all of your communications (sent and received calls, voicemail, texts, etc.) with a specific contact into one screen. Cost: Free
User review: I don’t feel I should have to pay to text since I am paying for a data plan. Text free lets me text very often and with no more shelling out extra to AT&T. It has been flawless.
2. Skype for Windows 8: The latest version of the well-known VoIP service, which came out Oct. 26, offers the same video and voice-calling abilities as previous versions and is capable of running in the background to accept all incoming calls. The app features a live tile on your tablet or computer start screen so that you can easily catch any missed calls or incoming messages. In addition, all of the your People and Skype contacts will be fully integrated, allowing users to easily make VoIP, landline, or mobile calls using Skype credits, as well as use video conferencing and send direct messages. You can snap Skype side by side with other Windows apps, allowing you to browse the web, photos and use maps while chatting. “Your conversations are more accessible to you than ever, and you can switch fluidly from chat to video or audio calls,” Mark Gillett writes on the Skype blog. Cost: Free
3. WhatsApp Messanger: Available for Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows, and Nokia phones, WhatsApp allows you to send and receive text, video and audio messages, as well as photos using a wi-fi or 3G connection. Business owners will appreciate the ability to hold group chats with contractors and clients, as well as the ability to send and receive international messages for free. There are no pins or usernames to remember, and should you need to turn your phone off, you can still receive messages offline. Cost: Free for the first year, then $0.99/annually
User review: If I could rate at 4 and a half stars I would. I use this app more than I use all my other apps combined — easy to use interface, very user friendly, hardly any issues … apart from the lag or delay of up to 10 mins in sending the messages sometimes.
4. Vippie: VoipSwitch’s new app for Android phones provides free calling, messaging and video calls with HD sound and high-quality video. Send photos, videos, music and more, as well as hold conference calls and use call waiting all without annoying ads. Vippie’s social hub allows you to chat for free with friends on Facebook and Google Talk. Business owners will appreciate the ability to send files to clients and customers during a conversation, not to mention the professional call quality. Cost: Free
User review: I have tried many kinds of VOIPs. So far, Vippie is one of the top 3.
5. iCall: Like most VoIP apps, iCall allows you to make free calls to landlines and other iCall users, and receive calls even when the apps isn’t running — and you’ll also get dirt-cheap international rates and no roaming charges. What’s cool about this New York Times App of the Week is its ability to turn your iPod Touch and iPad into a phone, as well as instant message users on a variety of IM platforms including iCall, AIM, Facebook, Windows Live Messenger, ICQ, and Google Talk. Business owners will love being able to chat with contractors and clients from one easy-to-use platform. Cost: Free
User review: You might as well Skip Skype… this blows it away! Not only can I use iCall on my phone but I can also use it on my PC. Hands down the best phone app I have downloaded for my iPhone. Kinda sounds cool too… iCall you from my iPhone!