Although this may make the telcos cringe, there are tons of mobile apps that were specifically created with one thing in mind — to save you $$ on your wireless bill.
When you live in a country like Canada, the land of Timbits and the highest wireless charges in the world, to take advantage of unlimited text messages, you’re often forced into a $20 add-on bundle plan at a loss of $240 annually. This can of course be avoided if you use a texting app, like textPlus, that does it free.
When it comes to calling, Skype is another great example of a service that minimizes charges, in fact it works so well, your telco may even throttle your connection for using it. If you don’t believe me, just ask Leo Laporte. His live webcast includes Skyped in guests and whenever it’s a guest from Canada, there’s often problems that can only be attributed to throttling.
While Skype does have a mobile app that supports cheap calling and low long distance rates, it does however require users to pre-purchase minutes before making a call, I personally don’t mind paying for a great service but free is always better. To be clear, calling Skype to Skype (if both parties have the app) doesn’t cost you a cent.
A new app called netTALK brings free calling to residents of Canada and the US without using any precious minutes from the monthly plan. So, those of us who live in Canada or the US can call anywhere in North America completely free, no long distance charges. It appears that international callers will be able to call free too, as long as it’s a Canadian or American phone number.
Making calls is done from the simple user-interface and it nicely integrates all of the current contacts found on the device — though the app features vary depending on the device (iPad, iPhone, Windows Mobile, Android). They’ve also included (ad supported) directory assistance and conference calling. Users can easily begin a conference call by dialing 2663 within the app, it doesn’t require participants to be using the app to join in either.
Using the iOS version, there are four screens; favourites, recents, contacts and numberpad (the call-out screen). There’s also another handy feature to record calls within the app should you happen to receive a call from Mel Gibson.
The Android version isn’t as aesthetically polished and lacks the record feature but it does allow users to input their voicemail # and it seems to already have the incoming ringtone options ready to go — unfortunately as of today users aren’t able to receive calls using netTALK but the option is coming very soon according to the app’s iTunes description.
After making a few test calls using both the Android (Nexus One) and iPhone 4 the results were mixed. The quality of the first two calls made using the iPhone was pretty decent however the first call was somewhat crackly, not the case with the latter. Using the Nexus One (Android) the quality was solid but it delivered some echo. Overall no major complaints. To get rolling, users simply set up a free account (doesn’t require a phone #) to activate the app. And, it works over WiFi, 3G and EDGE.
netTALK may have sounded familiar because last month we heard about their VOIP hardware called netTALK Duo which sports a direct connection to a router, microUSB port and it allows for the use of a regular handset. Similar to the mobile iteration, the use of their VOIP service boasts free calling in the US and Canada additionally offering low international rates starting at .02/minute.
The company promises low international calling and integration with the netTALK Duo soon. Bring it on.
Download the app from netTALK