Blog Post

7 Ways to VoIP From Your Mobile Phone

While the emergence of VoIP, or voice-over-Internet protocol, technology has already helped push down the cost of making a phone call, now it’s starting to have a deflationary impact on the world of mobile, where call charges remain stubbornly high. [digg=]

In the meantime, the ongoing adoption of 3G broadband and the inclusion of Wi-Fi in many high-end phones is drawing a growing amount of attention to mobile VoIP services. Indeed, research firm Disruptive Analysis predicts that the number of VoIP-over-3G users will top 250 million by the end of 2012 — from virtually zero in 2007.

We at GigaOM are constantly tinkering with these mobile services, so we’ve put together a list of seven mobile VoIP apps that we think you’ll find handy.

Skype Options

Skype MobileService: Skype Mobile
Platform/Network: Java-based application that works on 50 popular phones from Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Samsung. Can be used on numerous cellular data networks.
Cost: Free
Features: Chatting (including with a group), presence settings (offline, online, do not disturb), and Skype-to-Skype calls (including SkypeIn).
Our Opinion: If your phone is supported, Skype Mobile is a great way to add Skype chatting and calls to it. Though it would be nice if the Skype application weren’t written in Java, as these applications are often sluggish and unstable.

SkypephoneService: 3 Skypephone
Platform/Network: Uses a specialized handset. Currently available in the UK, Italy, Austria, Hong Kong, Australia, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden.
Cost: The phone costs £49.99 (about $98) and can be used on a pre-paid basis. Calls cost nothing if they’re made from Skype.
Features: Free Skype-to-Skype mobile calls and the ability to conduct Skype IM conversations, all without touching your computer.
Our Opinion: The 3 Skypephone is best suited for those who need a few monthly mobile minutes and wish to talk/IM to their Skype friends along the way. The pre-paid feature makes it an attractive and inexpensive option for Skype chatters in the geographies it serves.

iSkoot logoService: iSkoot
Platform/Network: Mobile handsets such as BlackBerry, Nokia, Windows Mobile and Palm OS models. Also works on GSM networks.
Cost: Modest to expensive, based on usage. Because iSkoot is a hybrid VoIP/GSM service, it uses SMS and mobile minutes when making and receiving calls or Skype IM messages.
Features: SkypeIn and Skype-to-Skype calls, Skype IM messages.
Our Opinion: iSkoot is a good option for keeping in touch with your Skype contacts. However, I would look at other software applications that just use data to send Skype SMS and Skype voice traffic.

Mobile VoIP Players

Truphone logoService: Truphone
Platform/Network: Nokia handsets
Cost: Incoming free calls while on the Truphone network, low per-minute rates while on a GSM network. Outgoing calls are billed at very low per minute rates.
Features: Truphone offers free calls, SMS and voice mail while logged into the Truphone network via Wi-Fi. Otherwise, Truphone forwards calls to your mobile handset and you pay a low per-minute charge.
Our Opinion: With its smart forwarding options, Truphone is particularly useful for international travelers. Whether you’re on Wi-Fi or just your normal GSM network, you can be reached via your Truphone number no matter where you are (charges apply in certain cases, see their site for details). For times when Wi-Fi is not available, Truphone just released Truphone Anywhere, which utilizes local gateways for outgoing calls at low per-minute charges. I have trialed the service by forwarding calls from my Truphone number to my cell phone and the call quality was fantastic; voices were indistinguishable from any other cell phone call. A Truphone-to-Truphone VoIP call yielded even higher voice quality.

FringService: Fring
Platform/Network: Nokia/Symbian handsets, Widows Mobile, iPhone (pre-release beta)
Cost: Free
Features: Allows you to make VoIP calls on any SIP network, Skype or to other Fring users. Additionally, Fring is a multi-protocol IM client that will allow you to chat with your buddies on Skype, MSN, ICQ, Google Talk, Twitter, AIM and Yahoo.
Our Opinion: I have used Fring to make SIP and Skype voice calls, and over EDGE the call is choppy and hard to understand. However, Wi-Fi provides enough bandwidth to make Fring calls clear and understandable. I wouldn’t say the quality is fantastic, but it is very comparable to a normal cell phone call.

logoService: Talkonaut
Platform/Network: Available for Java-based phones, Symbian and Windows Mobile
Cost: Free
Features: Talkonaut offers free VoIP and IM chatting. For instant messaging, the application supports Google Talk, ICQ, AIM, and Yahoo. Talkonaut can also use SIP for VoIP calling.
Our Opinion: Talkonaut is a Russian offering and is still very new. The application was quite unstable on my Nokia N82 handset. With iffy performance and a very rusty user interface, I would recommend looking at other applications for this functionality, namely Fring.

NimbuzzService: Nimbuzz
Platform/Network: Java program, Symbian; an iPhone version is coming soon.
Cost: Free
Features: Allows you to engage in IM conversations and conduct VoIP calls, as well as to share media such as photos and video. Nimbuzz also allows for client-to-client calls and has widgets enabling calls to originate from Facebok and MySpace. Compatible with Skype, Google Talk, AOL Instant Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo, MySpace, Facebook and Jabber IM networks.
Our Opinion: The Symbian application is very responsive and easy to use. A VoIP call originating from my Facebook page to Nimbuzz over a Wi-Fi connection sounded good — just as good as any call over a GSM network.

Gizmo5Service: Gizmo5 (formerly Gizmo Project)
Platform/Network: Nokia Symbian handsets, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Nokia Tablets
Cost: Free for VoIP calls, low per-minute charge to call landlines and to SMS to mobiles.
Features: Gizmo5 allows you to conduct voice calls to other Gizmo5 users and grants IM conversations with friends on Gizmo5, MSN, AIM, Yahoo and Jabber.
Our Opinion: Gizmo5 is a great competitor to Skype, just not as established or well-known. They have wisely developed their client software for many platforms including numerous mobile phones, and on both Mac and PC. VoIP call quality is stellar when calling between clients, as well as to landline/mobile phones.

71 Responses to “7 Ways to VoIP From Your Mobile Phone”

  1. Look for an upcoming launch of DeFi Global Access from DeFi Mobile. For a flat monthly fee, use a Nokia Smartphone (E51, E66, E61i, E71 and more) to access DeFi Mobile’s proprietary network for excellent quality, unlimited calling and business appropriate features including simultaneous ring, voice-mail, call-forwarding and many more. If you’re interested in a VIP access code prior to the launch, drop me a line [email protected] … Soon, DeFi will support iPhone, RIM (Bberry) and other operating systems.

    Tim Warner

  2. I am waiting for a true Mobile Java based SIP solution. All the offerings leave that out. If it is a software (i.e. fring) it won’t work on a Java install.

  3. Roger Wilco

    Or by texting “comsnokia” to 64446 you are up and running with VoIP phone calls on your nokia.
    Read more on:
    To me, VoIP users tend to think of their connection as being “free,” since they can call anywhere, for just pennies per minute. Actually, only VoIP to VoIP calls are completely free of charge. For that reason, VoIP is mostly used by the business sector. But applications for residential use will be more explored and developed in the near future.

  4. @Brian

    no, no particular reason. I chose the 7 on the list based on my exposure to mobile VoIP options. I could have posted many more, but the post can’t be 5000 words long :)

    Perhaps I’ll do a second go-round with Mobile VoIP options in the near future.


  5. Hi Jason, nice brief review, thanks. Yet there are some more application available, like Octro, Symmy, etc.

    Anyway, I would like to know why do you think Talkonaut’s GUI is rusty ? Yes, we are using our own GUI framework which is independent of underlying mobile OS, and is easily portable (currently working on iPhone version). Yes, it is very different from standard GUI, but why rusty ? People who tried using it at least for a week find it very convenient. Can you please provide bit more feedbacks to my email ?

    And by the way Talkonauy is now one of the most feature-rich IM/mVoIP client available. Take a look on this comparison table:

    Regarding stablity of Talkonaut, you are right it’s very new and bit rough, but we do release new builds daily with lots of bug fixes. What build number were you trying that behaved unstable on your Nokia ?

  6. I realize this is a list of only seven and there are probably countless other services to choose from, but I have used PhoneGnome Mobile on iPhone as well as Nokia and other cell phones and it works great. I really like checking voicemail with a “visual voicemail” capability regardless of carrier or mobile phone (i.e. a solution for “iPhone envy”):

    I also saw an interesting hack here for unlimited free calls using a combination of VoIP and MyFaves:

  7. There is another company offering QT Mobile Viop service. It works like a calling card with out the card, pin less dialing. You can use it on any cell phone smart or GSM.You don’t even need your own internet connection the call are routed over there network no bandwidth issues. The only bad thing is that it is only good if you use it the US to call world wide.

  8. all require wifi cell fons or paid internet access. If you connect your cell to the net to then skype to skype with a guy 13000 miles away, the sk2sk is free but the net connection is a KILLER. if you dind free wifi and your device has wifi youre ok. These plans work only if the net connect cost is zero.We need a local number to call from a cell fon that enters you into the cheap call nets be it skype gizmo etc. Mobivox offers this in spain….we pay the cost cell to local landline then its free to skype contacts . welcome to my world..its not starbucks free wifi everywhere or blackberry. Its high cost be clever and offer us a way..

    we are the jewish community in murcia spain

  9. hi all,

    I can think of a few companies delivering the utility of VOIP to the mobile phone (some technically elegantly and some not), including Jajah, EQO, mig33 (us), Morange and others.

    We’ve got 13m registered users now, clocking nearly 4m sessions per day, 300m messages sent / received per day, and we have active users on over 2,200 handsets.

    Steven Goh

  10. Sagar Gandhi

    Wow, interesting to see how many people use each of these players. Would be interesting to see how many downloads each of them get on Getjar, the of the mobile world. ebuddy, mig33 lead the pack and I don’t see any of them here.

  11. Ashish

    Recently, I have been playing with tringme and was searching on the mobile voip topic when i ran into your blog entry.
    I think you should include tringme mobilevoip in your comparision as well. I like their service since it allows me to call over my office Wifi.

  12. Seems there is a lot of confusion as to what constitutes Mobile VoIP, and what the benefits are in terms of real saving to the end user. Great to see some knowledgeable contributions that can shed some light on the facts. Keep ’em coming! What about the other “Mobile VoIP” services mentioned above.

  13. @gfsda

    Thank you for your comment. In my section on Skype mobile, I didn’t assert that Skype Mobile uses pure data for Skype-to-Skype calls.

    However, I (and the other readers) appreciate you clarifying that Skype-to-Skype calls do use GSM minutes. According to Skype’s web site, this is to ensure voice quality.

  14. charlie

    No problem. Also, Skype Mobile and Truphone Anywhere share the same problem….they use your local minutes to make (discounted) international calls. So Truphone Anywhere is .06 cents a minute plus using your plan minutes, and Truphone on wifi is just .06 cents a minute.

    Considering that AT&T offers international calling to europe at .09 cents a minute, Truphone is simply not competitive in the US Market. SkypeMobile did have bundle pricing ($5 a month) which works.

    I’ve switched to VOIPBUSTER using the built-in SIP client on my Nokia. Shady, but it comes to 2.5 dollars a month for unlimited (well, 300 minutes a week) calling to Europe.

  15. One thing to add to the last comment: When using SkypeIn or SkypeOut with Skype Mobile you usually pay both SkypeOut Credits and your regular phone carrier fee. So it actually can become quite costly.

  16. Skype Mobile is not VoIP, it is calling to local numbers using your operator’s GSM to do a “call-through”. IP is used there solely for presence and chat.

  17. daleyalex

    It might be a good occassion to question what a research firm with name Disruptive Analysis has in predicting that a nascent technology would become massively disruptive in such a short time. There are still various barriers in front of VoIP on mobile phones–handset capabilities, OS fragmentation, lack of strong platform development tools, barriers to user adoption such as locked down phones and data QoS. Granted, lots of things are changing in all of those areas, thanks in large part to the success fo RIM, MSFT, and now Apple in introducing more capable phones that beget more consumer demand for applications. But, given the issues in this market, it may take much longer than that analyst is predicting–the telcos around the world have learned a lot from the internet boom about effectively utilizing PHY scarcity, and they may not repeat some of those same missteps.

  18. charlie

    Truphone is not “Free”; calls to landlines start at .06 a minutes and go up, calls to mobile are also standard pricing. When roaming, you can use Truphone anywhere to place a local call, but for Americans roaming minutes cost over $1 a minute anyway. If you get a local SIM, that cuts the price down.