Given the explosion in mobile over the last 5 years, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that companies are doing everything they can to jump on the mobile bandwagon, and VOIP providers are no exception. While the regulars have been playing in the mobile space for a while, nobody took it too seriously until Apple released FaceTime. Apple has a lot to bring to the table with FaceTime – allowing iPhone users to easily video chat with each other. But the platform was hampered by the restriction to WiFi networks and of course, the fact that it only works on the iOS platform. There has to be a better VOIP solution. One that anyone can take advantage of.
Vonage has been a big player in the home VOIP market for a long time. Hoping to bring that dominance of the home market over to the mobile world, Vonage has released their first mobile client. Keeping with the traditional, Vonage is allowing free Vonage to Vonage calls. It doesn’t matter if your friend has home service with Vonage or the Vonage mobile app. You’ll be able to call them for free. Further to that, for a limited time, any calls to Canada or the US (even if they aren’t Vonage to Vonage calls) will be free. What to call your Grandma on her old landline? No worries, it’s a free call.
Things change a little when you want to call your friends in the Netherlands or in Ireland. Vonage has some great prices that are less than regular landline long distance. You can buy credit in 2 denominations, $4.99 or $9.99. But why would you? Simply have your friend download the Vonage Mobile app, and call them for free!
Sounds a lot like Skype right? I was thinking the same thing at first. But here’s where things take a different path. Sure, you can have free Skype to Skype calls, and it doesn’t matter if it’s Skype mobile or desktop. However, with Vonage the application connects with your mobile number and it integrates with the notification services on your phone. Simply put, you don’t have to be running the application to be notified of an incoming call and you don’t have to get a new number. Just install the app and anyone that already has your number can start doing free Vonage to Vonage calls. The address book will automatically show an orange V icon next to the names of people who have the app installed and can be called for free. Pretty nice deal, right?
If you ever find yourself needing to make international calls and you can’t use the free Vonage to Vonage service, you can quickly and easily purchase air time from within the app. So there’s no messing around with pasting registration codes.
All your friends aren’t using iPhones? Not a problem for Vonage Mobile. It works across Android and iOS platforms. So you can make a call from your iPhone and it can be received on an Android phone. Vonage Mobile also supports WiFi, 3G, and 4G data networks. Both of these are things that FaceTime users are unable to do. And don’t worry if you don’t have Vonage’s landline service. That’s not a requirement to enjoy free calling from their mobile app.
From a features point of view, I’m pretty impressed. I like that Vonage has spent some time thinking about how best to integrate this app with your mobile life and it doesn’t require me to give out new contact details or keep the app running just to receive a call. But, how well does it work? If the call quality isn’t that good, then it’s all for not.
First thing to try, WiFi calling. The first attempt was a Vonage to Vonage call and I have to be honest here – it was pretty amazing in terms of call quality. I’ve made a number of Skype calls over the years, the Vonage call was easy to dial, and the sound quality was top notch. I called from my Galaxy Nexus to Johan van Mierlo’s iPhone. Johan did report that it was a little slow in answering on his phone. This was due to the app launching. But for me, I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. Next it was Vonage to a regular landline, and just like the first WiFi call, it was clear with great audio quality and no hiccups whatsoever.
Time to try the cellular data network – how does Vonage hold when making calls using the 3G network. To test this, I made a series of calls from my Galaxy Nexus and from my iPhone 4 using the Vonage mobile app. There was a mixture of Vonage to Vonage and Vonage to landline calls made. Before the call ended, I asked how well they were able to hear me, and if there was any echo’s or slowness. In all the calls I made, people reported that I sounded just fine. The one thing to be concerned about on the cellular network is the amount of data that was used for the call. An 8 minute call, as reported in the Vonage app, used just under 3MB of data, as reported with the data usage tool in the Galaxy Nexus (ICS). For people with large data plans, this shouldn’t be a concern. However, if you have 500MB or a 1GB plan, you might need to be careful about when you use Vonage on cellular versus WiFi.
All things considered, I don’t think you can go wrong with the Vonage mobile app. Looking past the free Vonage to Vonage calls, which is something you would expect in any competing VOIP solution, you still get free North American calls – ok, Vonage says that’s for a limited time, you also don’t have to tell the world about your Vonage account, since it’s tied to your phone number, your friends already have your free contact details. The integration with the notification engine in your smartphone means you don’t actually have to keep the app open and running just to receive a call, huge advantage. If you look past all of that, you still have excellent call quality over WiFi and your cellular data network and super cheap international rates. What’s not to like?
My biggest complaint, is that there is no Windows Phone client. I’m sure that’s something that will come as the platform grows and more functionality is exposed. Even still, you can still run it on either Android or iOS, and I’ve been known to have a couple of those around. So it’s not like I’m stuck without a way to use the app. Head over your app market and download Vonage mobile today. Let us know your thoughts on how well it preforms.