Free Skype Calls on a Cell Phone?
Can I use Skype to make free calls on a cell phone? I'm almost always in a wifi zone, so why not use Skype or other VoIP calling services to make calls, instead of burning up my minutes? Seems logical, but I've heard that some mobile carriers force you to use your minutes even when calling on Skype. I'd love to have this subject clarified, thanks!
Free VoIP Calling on a Mobile Phone
It's true, using the Skype app on your mobile phone, you can call other Skype users for free. You can call landline or other mobile phones, too, for as little as 1.9 cents per minute. Just install Skype Mobile software on an iPhone, Android or Blackberry smartphone, buy some Skype credits, and you can get started right way. If you want to learn more about VoIP, see my related article Free VoIP Phone Calls.
There's just one little problem: you may have to pay your mobile carrier for minutes or data connectivity, in addition to any charges you pay to Skype. Yes, even if you have wifi available!
On the Verizon network, you can make unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls from the USA. This means you can talk to other people who have Skype on their mobile phone or computer, for free. Maybe. If you have an unlimited data plan, you shouldn't have to worry. But if you have a data plan with caps, you could end up paying overage charges for the data that you burn while Skyping. See this Skype data usage page to get an idea of how much data you will use for various types of VoIP calling.
But wait, it gets even more annoying. Any Skype calls to U.S. landline or mobile numbers will be carried on the Verizon network -- not Skype -- so you'll be using your cellular minutes when you talk on Skype. Clearly, Skype caved to Verizon and modified their app so these calls would be routed through Verizon (thus using your minutes) even when a data or wifi connection is available. And just to confuse things a little more, international calls do not consume your Verizon plan minutes, but instead require Skype Credit just like Skype on your computer.
UPDATE: For Android users, it turns out there are TWO Skype apps. The one called "Skype Mobile on Verizon" has the undesirable features I mentioned above, and is pre-installed on some Verizon phones. However, there is another app named "Skype" that DOES allow you to make calls over wifi. This is the app you want to use! If you have the pre-installed "Skype Mobile on Verizon" app, you CANNOT uninstall it, but you CAN install the "real" Skype app, and just ignore the Verizon branded app. For Verizon iPhone users, there is only one Skype app, and it does not permit voice calls over wifi.
Truly Free Mobile Wifi Calling
Fortunately, there are other options that enable free mobile VoIP calling over wifi. If you have a T-Mobile or AT&T smartphone, and can connect to a WiFi network, then you don't have to pay carrier charges to use Skype or any other mobile VoIP service. Skype-to-Skype calls are truly free, and you pay only Skype's low rates for calls to landlines and other mobile phones. These calls will use your wifi connection (not your plan minutes) to make VoIP calls over the Internet, as you'd expect.
For people who have wifi available in their home, office or wherever they make most of their phone calls, it may be a good idea to get a prepaid AT&T or T-Mobile smartphone, with the cheapest available calling plan. Download the Skype app, and for about $3 a month in Skype credits, you get unlimited calling within the USA and Canada. You'll probably also want a Skype online number ($5 per month), which allows you to receive incoming calls and voicemail. For those times when you are not within wifi range, you've got your cellular plan minutes as a backup. I have not tried this, but it seems like one should be able to use a smartphone with wifi, and NO calling plan, to save even more.
Fring lets you make voice calls or video chats on a wifi network, without burning any minutes or incurring data charges. (Yes, even on a Verizon phone.) Calls to other Fring users are free, and you can use fringOut to call landline or mobile numbers worldwide, with rates starting at 1 cent per minute.
Vonage, a Skype competitor in the VoIP arena, recently released the Vonage Mobile app for Android and iPhone. It works over WiFi networks to provide free voice and text messaging to other phones equipped with the Vonage app. If no WiFi signal is available, the app uses your 3G or 4G cellular service and your cellular carrier's regular rates apply. For a limited time, Vonage Mobile is offering free calls and text messages to mobile and landline phones in the U. S., Canada, and Puerto Rico (up to 3000 minutes per month).
MobileVoIP.com is an app that you can use with any of several dozen VoIP services. It's available for Android, iOS, Blackberry, Symbian, and Windows Phone handsets. The app itself is free, and works over WiFi or 3G services. But you will have to subscribe to one of the many VoIP services offered.
Mobile VoIP over wifi -- whether it's with Skype, Fring, Vonage, or a similar service -- is yet another way to reduce your monthly phone bill. It can be very useful if you don't have an unlimited calling plan, and want to conserve your minutes. It also saves roaming charges when you are outside of your service area, and can save more than 70 per cent off the cost of international calls.
Do you use Skype or some other VoIP service on your mobile phone? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 9 Feb 2012
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