When it comes to really use a VoIP service to save money, I pay more attention to the service and to the overall user experience, something that sometimes, while reviewing a service very quickly, you only look at it superficially.
I briefly explained the use-case in this post today: I want to call my contacts in Italy from a mobile phone in the US, saving as much money as possible, with the best user experience and without using a PC while on the go, aside from the service setup.[/excerpt]
What I did:
- I bought a Pay-as-you-go SIM card by T-Mobile, with 1010 minutes included (rate is $0,10/minute for any local US call)
- I then setup the following services: Jajah Direct, Mobivox, WifiMobile, Talkster and Rebtel.
Any of the services listed above lets you use a local access number in order to make the long-distance phone-call. In addition, they offer other ways to make phone calls, through your PC, a client on your mobile phone as well as through a call-back. However, those features are not the subject of this test. Moreover, the results of this comparison are significant for the use case above only, it won’t be a comprehensive comparison among those VoIP services.
What Jajah Direct does for you is to assign a local phone number for any of your contacts. I chose 415 (San Francisco) as the local area code of my new numbers. Numbers are assigned immediately and I could easily save them in my T-Mobile mobile phone.
At this point, I filled my account with €10 and started calling.
- landline in Italy: $0,10 + $0,03 = $0,13 / minute
- mobile in Italy: $0,10 + $0,22 = $0,32/minute
Quality was superb and setup time almost insignificant.
Like Jajah, I had to register my phone number to my account, this way they can easily recognize and authenticate my account when I call from my US mobile number.
Unlike Jajah, Mobivox doesn’t assign a local number to any contact, but you just need to dial a unique dial-in number. After that, you can both insert the number you want to call by entering it on your phone keyboard (it will be recognized by the Mobivox system) as well as insert the letters of the contact you want to call, if the contact is in your address book. You can also use a voice recognition system to tell he system the number you want to call.
- landline in Italy: $0,10 + $0,019 = $0,119 / minute
- mobile in Italy: $0,10 + $0,22 = $0,289/minute
It’s a little bit less than Jajah Direct, even if I found the usability a little bit worse. I found out that having local numbers for any of your contacts is much easier to me (but it’s just a personal take… in addition I changed my opinion since in the past I preferred to have just one number). Nevertheless, voice quality was excellent as well.
In addition, it’s worth to say that Mobivox active users get calls to each other completely for free. It means that if I call my friend to a landline in Italy and he’s a Mobivox active users, the call is free and I only pay $0,10/minute.
WifiMobile announced the availability of the local-access numbers just a couple of weeks ago. In addition, they just converted their accounts to prepaid in place of the monthly fee they were charging previously.
After registering my US mobile phone number, I just dialed the local number for the US (626 261 4326) and entered the number I wanted to call after the voice asked me to.
Unfortunately I tried a couple of italian numbers, inserting both +39 and 0039 for the country code, but none of them has been accepted. I will try again later or wait for a feedback from John O’Prey at WifiMobile. I will post an update immediately as soon as this problem is sorted out.
Anyway, here is what the cost would have been the following:
- landline in Italy: $0,10 + $0,018 = $0,118 / minute
- mobile in Italy: $0,10 + $0,284 = $0,384/minute
Landline is cheaper than the previous two, but mobile is pricey. Unfortunately cannot tell you more about quality, since I hasn’t worked yet.
The approach of Talkster is much different from the previous three services. It’s basically the cheapest one, because it uses a conference call bridge.
It works this way: I enter the number I want to call into the Talkster’s homepage, together with the phone number I will call from (my T-Mobile US phone number). At this point, a new US number is assigned to my friend, so I can call him by dialing that number directly (a 415 has been assigned, like with Jajah), that I can save into my address book.
Now it comes the difference with Jajah Direct: during my call (I’m waiting in the meantime) an SMS is sent to my friend, telling him to call me back at a local Italian number I’ve been assigned. My friend calls me and we both join the call.
The cost for me is very cheap, because I’m only paying the local call to the US number assigned to my friend. The downside is that my friend must call back a local italian number, so he’s paying for it, according to his plan.
- landline in Italy: $0,10 = $0,10 / minute
- mobile in Italy: $0,10 = $0,10/minute
At the same time, the person I called is paying a local call that depends on what number I called him to. Good for certain types of calls, not for all.
RebTel is a mixture of the previous services. It works like Jajah since it assigns a local US number to any of my contacts. No call back is necessary (unlike Talkster), something that was mandatory in the past when I first tested Rebtel after its launch. Nevertheless, that option is still available for the so-called “Rebtel countries” so it would work like Talkster and the call could be much cheaper since I would pay the local US call only.
In addition, Rebtel also assigns a local number to me, so that my contact can easily call me back at his convenience (that number will be shown as CLI when I call him or I can manage to send it to my friend for free by SMS). A rate of $ 0,018/minute is debited from my Rebtel account in this case.
- landline in Italy: $0,10 + $0,019 = $0,119 / minute
- mobile in Italy: $0,10 + 0,195 = $0,295/minute
All the services described above offer you great rates and a overall good user experience. Here are my choices:
- Usability: Jajah
- Features: RebTel
- Cost: MobiVox
- Overall Best Choice: RebTel
Overall, aside from some early-stage usability issues, RebTel offers the most complete range of features at a very competitive price, letting you choose what to do, whether to use your Rebtel credit for calling out or sharing the cost with the person you are calling by using the call back feature. I have to say that I praise RebTel for having really improved their service since its first launch, so that it deserves to be selected as the best choice in this comparison (given the use-case described at the beginning of this post).
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