With all the downsides I hear about Skype, I am surprised little attention has been given to a very competitive alternative in Google Voice. With a free phone number, free voicemail dictation service, and free calling to and from numbers throughout the U.S. and Canada, people really should start taking advantage of this service. The audio and video call reliability is stronger than Skype, and you can use the service directly from G-mail! Extending on that service, GrooVe IP is an Android app that lets you harness the power of Voice-over-IP (VoIP) to make dirt cheap calls from anywhere in the world.
With Google Voice you can make and receive calls to pretty much anywhere you are without worrying if your actual cellphone is nearby. I use GrooVe IP on my Xoom if my phone is not with me or if I need to find it. It’s also really cool because you can use the service from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. The last time I went to Australia, I didn’t want to bother with the hassle of getting an international SIM or transferring my number, etc., so instead I simply used this app wherever I could find a Wi-fi hotspot, which was pretty much everywhere! I could call my wife at home in Utah for free!
GrooVe IP comes in two flavors: Lite and Full versions. The Lite version is ad-supported and only allows calls to be made over a Wi-fi connection, but for most that is more than acceptable for free calls. The Full version ($4.99) features some very nice enhancements to consider if you end up using the app a lot:
- Calls over a mobile data connection not just WiFi
- Native dialer integration – use the same dialer app for both VoIP and regular calls
- Proximity sensor support – this turns the screen off when you hold the phone up to your face.
- Change sign in status or sign in invisibly
In terms of alternative VoIP phone apps, Viber and Talkatone are pretty popular
, but they don’t seem to support Google Voice accounts as well as GrooVe IP too. UPDATE: Use the Hangouts app and Hangouts Dialer extension app for Android to connect and make free calls with your Google Voice number, now.