We’re not sure if Internet phone services provider Vonage’s latest initiative is a sign of desperation or a smart move.
This morning Vonage rolled out free international calling powered by its Vonage Mobile app.
Available for iPhone and Android devices, the free app lets users call others who have downloaded the app.
Vonage Mobile also allows users to send free texts to users of the app, worldwide.
The app works over Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G wireless data networks.
Why the Free Service?
The wise ones ones at SI think the logic behind the new free international service is the reasonable expectation that not many users outside the U.S. have iPhone or Android phones.
Ergo, they’ll have to use a paid service like Vonage or Skype (offers both free and paid services).
Vonage Mobile users can call people who have not downloaded the app at per-minute rates that Vonage claims are 70% less than major mobile carriers and 30% less than Skype’s paid version.
Free Already Available
If you have an iPhone, iPad or new iMac or Mac notebooks, you can use the device’s built-in Facetime app to make video calls to other iPhone or iPad users anywhere in the world via WiFi for free.
But Facetime won’t let you call those without an iPhone, Android phone or iMac or Mac notebooks.
Or you can use the free version of Skype app to call other Skype users.
Vonage Mobile – The Details
Users can add calling credit directly from the app through iTunes or Android Market in increments of $4.99 and $9.99.
Vonage Mobile uses the phone’s existing mobile number and contact list, avoiding the need for unique user names and duplicate identities for contacts.
Calls to any phone in the U.S., Canada or Puerto Rico from anywhere in the world will be free for a limited time (up to 3,00 minutes a month).
Users do NOT need to be a Vonage customer to use the app. Calls to Vonage home or business lines are also free.
Besides the iPhone and Android phone, Vonage Mobile app works on iPod Touch, iPad and Android Tablets.
Well, given that international calling on Vonage has been included at no additional charge for a long time, this seems like a fairly logical move that actually ups the stakes significantly for its competitors. In fact, people might take a calling plan on iPhone / Android with the bare minimum number of minutes, then make all their calls from their phone via Vonage.
I switched from Vonage to Ooma over 2.5 years back and have had a nice journey. I had to purchase the device for $199, then I had the option to not pay a cent for the rest of the company’s lifetime: I would have broken even if the company survived 8 months, assuming Vonage’s service would cost me around $27 per month with taxes. But about 3-4 months after I switched, Vonage introduced international calling for free and I was left to wonder if I had made the right decision. Luckily Ooma came up with a pretty smart counter: $10 for 1000 international minutes. Given my calling pattern I have never exceeded that amount and it has been a long time since I passed the break-even point.
Of course, Vonage’s mobile app makes it a lot more convenient now, since Ooma’s mobile app pricing is nothing to write home about. I have never felt the pinch during international travel, though because my employer offers softphones with unlimited international calling. It would be really nice if this capability could be transferred to the mobile.
1. Alas, we hardly call anyone these days.
Even Pizza, we order online at Dominos.com & pickup at store, to avoid tipping. 😉
But we had Vonage for a year around 2003 or 2004. Their service then was so spotty that we cancelled it (the customer service rep never even tried to stop us because she understood how bad it was then, particularly for international calls).
We doubt Vonage Mobile can save Vonage given the existence of free Skype, Apple Facetime, free texting/IM, MagicJack and inertia of older people like SI to switch.
2. You write: In fact, people might take a calling plan on iPhone / Android with the bare minimum number of minutes, then make all their calls from their phone via Vonage.
Our understanding is that to get the free 3,000 minutes every month (United States, Canada and Puerto Rico ) you do not need to sign up for any plan.
@kreacher, I have the Vonage extension on the iPhone. When we try to call domestic from that, it uses ATT minutes, but international calls work great. For local calls, I use Google voice from laptop if my Vonage line is being used in parallel. If I use the google voice app on the iPhone/Android, I get charged for data. Not sure how what works. Understandably ATT is trying to plug these loopholes that
cheaposwe try to exploit.
You write: When we try to call domestic from that, it uses ATT minutes….we try to exploit
Excerpt from Vonage Press Release Yesterday:
Maybe you need to update the app and then you can do all the exploiting of AT&T on the domestic front too. 😉
@Gandhiji Lol… You have to use either your voice minutes or your data to reach the outside world.. Kiddin.. I understand what you mean.
I think you are saying that if you use GV on the iPhone it uses cellular data instead of WiFi.
Have you tried this on the iPhone, General->Settings->Network ->Cellular data = OFF.
Now if you are on WiFi this should ensure data is WiFi and not cellular.
I think Vonage is late to the game announcing the untethered to Vonage@home category of mobile device calling options. What with jajah, tango.me , skype and a slew of other options available for mobile devices – Vonage is now in the ‘also ran’ category.
Moreover, with all the SIP telephony providers selling rock bottom calling plans international voice telephony is no longer a major cost item atleast for personal calling.
I have my cellular data off most of the time. (use up about 50 MB a month – only time I turn it on is when I need GPS). Being new to smart phones(Jobs’ death pushed me over to the dark side, I guess) and a telephony-novice, I don’t know what exactly I was charged for – looked up the old bill, looks like it charged me for a text message when I used GV.
Being a new transplant from Verizon to AT&T, I am not used to rollover minutes. Looks like I can be less stingy with minutes.