The internet is an amazing technology. Using it, we can view text, images, and video from people around the world and sometimes, even in real time. In addition, the IP network that makes up the internet can be used to transmit phone calls. This is what is known as Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP phone service.
So what is a VoIP phone? What does it look like? VoIP phones can be either hardware or software. Many VoIP “phones” are simply a piece of software and a microphone attached to a computer. However, they can also be hardware devices built specifically to access the IP network instead of traditional phone lines and even complex VoIP Phone Systems for business.
Hardware-based VoIP phones look like typical phones. They have a key pad or touch pad for entering numbers and text, and display hardware to show caller IDs. There is also a voice engine to process voice messages and converters to turn voice to digital data and back. Most VoIP phones connect to a PC using an Ethernet port so that they can share a single data connection. Power might come from a battery, an AC source, or through the Ethernet connection (called a Power over Ethernet or PoE device).
There are some advantages of VoIP phones over traditional phones. It is possible to identify phone numbers with contact names or even e-mail style IDs that can be used to dial more easily than typical phone numbers. Contact lists can also be easily shared between accounts, which can be accessed from different computers.
The features available to VoIP phones are similar to those found in PC phone services, such as Skype or Google Voice. These services have latency issues related to limitations of the PC operating system under which they are running. VoIP phones do not suffer these limitations.
Sometimes mobile phones are able to run as VoIP devices via an app. These are Wi-Fi enabled phones running special software that allow them to connect to the IP network. There are also gateway devices that allow mobile phones to connect and make VoIP phone calls, though these devices require a license to run in most countries. They are useful in situations such as ships or remote countries where a connection to a typical mobile network is not possible.
So if you’ve ever wondered, what is a VoIP phone and whether you should get one, you now have the answers. VoIP phones are similar to software devices, such as Skype in that they allow the user to make phone calls using the internet. However, they are free from limitations faced by software programs since they aren’t limited by available memory under a PC operating system. They also have advantages over traditional phone systems, such as being able to dial IDs instead of just regular phone numbers. VoIP phones look like traditional phones and can even run on mobile devices.