Making Cheaper Phone Calls (Some Assembly Required)

If you have a landline telephone and a cable modem, then you’re in the perfect position to take advantage of cheap (sometimes free) phone calls–provided you’re willing to try one of the many oddball companies reviewed by tech columnist David Pogue in this week’s Circuits section of the New York Times.

The services he reviews offer a widely varying range of solutions, from computer-based dialing that rings on your regular landline (jajah.com), to Skype-like solutions that force you to sit at your computer (iCall.com), to a hare-brained scheme that requires you to purchase a $400 “box” and join in what’s basically a peer-to-peer network for telephony. (Ooma.com–but don’t those people remember what happened to Iridium?)

Then there’s still always Skype (we couldn’t resist) and its poor relation GizmoProject, both of which can be disguised to more or less function like old fashioned phone services–provided you’re willing to pay a little more, buy the extra equipment, and roll up your sleeves for some seriously geeky troubleshooting. But if you’re technophobic or just don’t have the time to waste, we recommend Vonage as an affordable alternative (at least until they’re sued out of business), especially if you travel a lot but frequently have access to a cable modem; our friend from Minnesota is temporarily living in Japan, and thanks to her Vonage modem her “local” Minneapolis number rings in her Tokyo apartment, and neither of us pay anything extra for the call.

Butwaitthere’smore! If you happen to have the right mobile phone, there are programs like fring and eqo that will allow you to make free or cheap phone calls–just make sure you have an unlimited data plan or wifi capabilities first.

Get Your Free Net Phone Calls Here [New York Times]

(Photo: geishaboy500)

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  1. dohtem says:

    This reminds me; anyone here remember DialPad from about 1999/2000? Free calls anywhere in the US, no limits, no restrictions. Just needed a headset and a decent connection (yay for college T1).

    Those where when the dotcom days were still good.

  2. Sunbun says:

    I remember DialPad, but looks like it got eaten by Yahoo, while some of their corporate people moved on to create GrandCentral.com.

    Hurray for GrandCentral.

    (Insert phoenix metaphor here?)

  3. SexCpotatoes says:

    I can’t believe you guys recommend VONAGE, yuck. They are the AOHeLL of VOIP. You are much better off going with ViaTalk, which I personally use. They used to be the #3 VOIP provider behind Vonage and SunRocket, but since SunRocket’s implosion, they’ve been signing up tonnes of new customers (with no noticable loss of service quality). Buy a year get a year free promotions almost constantly, totally awesome.

  4. azntg says:

    Actually, Dialpad back when it was free, used to allow free international dialing too. I should know, I called around the world once.

  5. weave says:

    GizmoProject at least uses open standards where as Skype does not. My wifi-enabled Nokia phone has Gizmo on it and that means when I’m overseas all I need to do is latch onto a wifi signal somewhere and I can call home for just 1.5 cents a minute from my mobile phone.

  6. lind777 says:


    AT&T tried to keep their offers quiet, not free but cheap.

    [frostfirecore.com]

  7. forever_knight says:

    bashing gizmo project? shame on you consumerist.

    i recently joined vitelity.com for a reasonable pay per minute experience.

  8. STrRedWolf says:

    Don’t forget that Vontage is still struggling with a lawsuit with Verizon over patents.

    Also, most IM programs (Yahoo, MSN, and Google) also have voice too, if you want to sit on your computer.

    And third, if you want to get your hands dirty, try out a Linux install on a spare PC and the free Asterix VoIP (Voice-over-IP) software. That way you can plug a “Softphone”.

  9. aliris says:

    The Ooma “good deal” touted on this linked NYTimes url is nowhere near the good deal it promises. The box may be a one-time fee of $400 but each additional extension in your house requires an additional $40 outlay. That can get pricey in a hurry!

    Anyone actually *used* Ooma?