Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and its name is GoogleOomaGrooveSkypeFringViber. Perhaps we should just stick with Santa Claus for now. But whatever his name is, he offers the gift of free access to your loved ones, not-so-loved ones and even people you really will never love but with whom you’ve gotta talk. You know, like your accountant or in-laws. Combine Santa’s gift along with a tablet and WiFi connection and you’ve got an amazing, smart, portable free phone-like device. Did we forget to mention free?
Our personal favorite is Google Voice. For Google customers, Voice is free and its integrated phone/email/contacts management system is very user-friendly. We have used Google Voice for over the past decade to make domestic phone calls. Aside from the free calls, it also allow me to synchronize my text messages, missed calls, voice mails, and contacts across multiple devices. More importantly, however, I love the fact that I can use the same phone number on any and all devices. This not only means texting on tablets and Web browsers, but calls from any phone with a Wi-Fi connection. Google Voice can be used to make free PC to phone calls and free PC to PC calls. It can get a bit complicated and we recommend that people use free or low-cost apps, such as Google Duo or the soon-to-be-discontinued Hangouts to make all of voice calls.
If you’ve purchased the Ooma, as we have recommended in other posts, then you can download an Ooma app on to your Apple mobile device that will allow your mobile to connect to the Ooma network — at no extra cost. Unfortunately, the same free app isn’t available for Android, at the moment. However, Ooma claims a $9.99 app is available at Google Play for Android phones…..but not tablets.
Unlike Google Voice, Skype is a member-based calling service. You can only get free service if you connect with another Skype member through that person’s Skype account. I’ve used Skype for almost as many years as I have Google Voice. Skype works quite well on Android phone and tablets, especially for those with a front-facing camera. Along those lines, a recent update enables landscape calling for tablets that offer a front-side shooter, which is pretty cool.
Like Skype, Fring is a “member-based” calling service in which you can call other Fring users around the world for free. Video chat and messaging costs nothing. In cases where you need to call a landline or mobile that’s outside your country of origin, the FringOut option provides inexpensive rates. Android phones and tablets that feature front-facing cameras can take advantage of video calling with up to four friends at a time. What makes the difference between Fring and most of the other VoIP software is that it is designed specifically for mobile phones, handsets and other portable devices. Fring offers all the benefits of a PC-based VoIP client, but on mobile phones.
Viber, like the other member-based VoIP services, offers free HD voice calls and messaging with other Viber offers free HD voice calls and messaging with other Viber users across the world and it works on cross platforms including, iOS, Android, Windows Phone & Blackberry. Users are also able to send recorded video messages along with photos and videos right from their phone’s gallery. The great thing about Viber is that you don’t have to create a traditional ID with a password, rather your phone number becomes your identity and the app scans for your contacts that are already Viber users, adding them to your viber contacts automatically. It’s a nice feature.