|1. VoIP Overview|
|2. What Is VoIP?|
|3. Residential Service Providers|
|4. Business Service Providers|
|5. Dual Providers Of Mobile & VoIP|
|6. Smartphone App Providers Only|
|7. Other Providers|
|8. Our VoIP Comparisons|
For years the tech industry has touted VoIP as the ‘future’ but it is not the future anymore, or how shall we say it… the future is NOW! With the plethora of VoIP companies offering incredibly cheap service nowadays one would be foolish not to at least consider VoIP. Whether it be for an individual or business, this is great news for those that have been looking to make the switch to VoIP and save money. The reality is there are so many great VoIP Providers on the market that offer incredible savings that it’s a no-brainer. In fact, there are even cell phone companies out there that offer lower tiered free plans that included unlimited VoIP minutes and messaging when calling via WiFi.
The home phone industry wasn’t always like this though. For years people overpaid for home phone service, to the tune of $50+ per month. And that was for a basic plan that didn’t include extra features such as call waiting, calling forwarding, 3-way calling, caller ID, directory assistance and much more. To top it all off these exorbitant monthly fees didn’t include any long distance calls. With a few long distances calls to loved ones subscribers were often left with $150+ monthly home phone bills. The VoIP companies of today provide most of these features with standard packages and often offer free long distance calling, if not you can always add long distance calls to your plan for only a few dollars more.
For starters there are the major players in the residential side of things including magicJack, Ooma, Vonage, Google Voice, NetTalk, Basic Talk, etc… Then there are also major players that are focused heavily on VoIP Phone systems needs of businesses. Some of these companies include 8×8, Ringcentral, Vonage Business, Ooma Office. There are also companies that offer free cell service with a smartphone and unlimited calls over VoIP while on WiFi. The major player in this area is FreedomPop. Then you have random adapter device that piggy back off of the free Google Voice services offered including the GVMate and Obihai. Below we delve into a few of these with brief write-ups and links to our more extensive reviews of VoIP Providers you need to know. We also have provided many VoIP comparisons for your convenience.
What Is VoIP?
At this point you likely know what VoIP is but if not we are here to tell you. VoIP is short for Voice-over-internet-protocol, a newer way to make phone calls than with traditional landline companies that use expensive telephone wires and infrastructure to transmit calls. VoIP came about in the late 1990’s and really began to explode in the early 2000’s. It uses the Internet to transmit phone calls thus by-passing the need for expensive infrastructure. This has allowed the big players in the industry to pass the savings on to consumers while still being very profitable. From a users vantage point there is no difference, so long as you have a reliable high-speed Internet connection.
This however wasn’t always the case as the early years of this technology were plagued with call quality issues. This can still can be an issues if you have a sub-par Internet or a poor provider, however in the majority of cases these days this is not an issue.
Residential VoIP Service Providers
Vonage – Vonage was a pioneer in the VoIP industry and thus it is probably the most well know company in the industry. In fact it is know so well that when I’m trying to have a discussion with someone about VoIP we often get a strange look, followed by the question “What Is VoIP?”. We generally follow that up with “You know, like Vonage, calls that are routed over the Internet?” and then they almost always know what I’m talking about, literally within seconds. Vonage service is more expensive that some of the big players in the industry but they are the gold standard for high quality residential VoIP services. Others may be cheaper but they are almost always skimping on something, whether it be customer service, call quality or the number of minutes. You can learn more about Vonage by reading our full and complete Vonage review. We don’t see any downside to Vonage besides the cost, which is fine if you understand that going in you are paying a premium for the most reputable residential VoIP provider.
Ooma– Ooma is another large and very well known company in the VoIP sector but they take a very different approach than Vonage. Ooma offers free service (outside of government taxes and fees) after the initial capital outlay for their ATA (analog telephone adapter) device. The taxes and fees are usually under $5.00 per month but can vary depending on the county, city and/or state you reside in. Besides the free option there one can upgrade to a more fully featured service for a monthly fee, but it’s definitely not necessary. The free service is more than sufficient for most but it’s nice to have an enhanced version as an option. With Ooma you also have to pay for international calls either by purchasing prepaid credits or subscribing to a flat rate monthly international plan. This is pretty normal as very few companies offer free international calls. The nice thing about Ooma is they offer a flat rate international plan while most companies only offer prepaid minutes.You can learn much more about Ooma’s phone service by reading our Ooma review. We highly recommend the service and don’t see how you can go wrong if you choose it.
magicJack – magicJack (MJ) is widely known as the price leader in the VoIP industry being as cheap as $20 per year for the fully featured service. They built their brand by being the cost-leader and through late night infomercial techniques that are typical of as seen on TV products. This method worked very well due to the shear value they were and still are able to offer customers. It’s interesting to compare magicJack and Vonage because they appear very different but when you get down to it they really aren’t that different. The same can be said when comparing Ooma and magicJack. They are able to offer the device for around $50 and that comes with a full year of unlimited calling that includes long distance and calling to Canada/Puerto Rico. It also comes with a full 30-day free trial period so you can try it out and see if it’s for you. For more information on MJ you can jump over to our magicJack section of the website. There you can find our review, which is the most extensive on the web.
Google Voice – Google Voice is an interesting provider in that they provide free service directly through a computer, including it being totally free to get a US phone number. Although their service works only through a computer you can get various ATA device to turn it into a fully featured VoIP service and allow you to hook an actual telephone up to the service. Two examples of such devices are the GVMate and Obihai. These devices are designed specifically to access Google Voice and make it more accessible through use of a phone. Both devices cost just the initial outlay and then you get free VoIP service for life. Quite the steal if you ask us.
Basic Talk – Basic Talk is actually a low-cost subsidiary of Vonage Holdings Corporation that was started specifically to compete with the likes of MJ and NetTalk. It’s similar to both of these services but is a bit more expensive. The Basic Talk Box is free when you sign up for service which is a bonus over magicJack, but the service costs $9.99 per month so it’s $120 after a year and you can get a 5-year MJ plan for just $99.75. You can see our comparison of Basic Talk and magicJack if you are considering both as potential VoIP solutions.We don’t think Basic Talk is a bad deal, however it’s clear that there are cheaper options out there.
NetTalk – NetTalk is the most similar to MJ and BasicTalk in that it has built it’s brand around similar ATA devices and on the exact same low-cost leader strategy that magicJack and Basic Talk tried to do, though only one can be the true low-cost leader (MJ appears to have won here). Without the significant financial backing that MJ has they are not able to offer their service for as low of a price and also didn’t have the money to invest in the wide range of advertisements campaigns. As a result the company is much smaller than BasicTalk and MJ. NetTalk and MJ are very similar as you will see by checking out our comparison of NetTalk and magicJack and our comparison of the NetTalk DUO Wifi and magicJack GO. They offer their service for $39.95 per year and the device for $20, which comes with 3 months of free service. It’s a great way to try a service for only a $20 investment,
Skype – Skype started out very different that all of the companies above and still is very different. Skype built its’ own private network at first, only allowing user-to-user communication and calling via a computer. This part of the service is free and includes Video calls and chat (things the company is famous for). These service don’t bring the company any direct revenue but users can make calls to external numbers if they purchase prepaid credits or by subscribing to one of their new calling plans starting at just $2.95 per year for unlimited calls within the US. There is also a new way to use Skype with a regular phone, where as in the past you were limited to making calls directly from your computer.. We did a brief comparison of Skype and magicJack which we plan to extend very soon. Again, this is a great service and you can’t really go wrong except if you decide to stick with your traditional landline service provider.
Business VoIP Service Providers
VirtualPBX – VirtualPBX with their new and improved “Dash” offering is one of the best and most advanced providers of cloud hosted pbx service in the business VoIP sector. The ability to keep all infrastructure on the ‘cloud’ helps to significantly reduce the costs for businesses. This allows businesses to avoid the bulky and very expensive traditional business VoIP phone sytems. VirtualPBX also offers an unheard of 14-day unlimited free trial so businesses can get a true sense of whether the service will be an adequate solution to their telephone needs. VirtualPBX is a relatively small company compared to the big players below but don’t let that fool you. Their services are feature rich and rival the best in the industry!
8×8 – 8×8 is a long standing player in the VoIP industry with a focus on providing VoIP services to businesses. They are a fast growing up that’s origin dates back to 1987 with the name Integrated Information Technology, Inc. (ITT). Years ago the company wasn’t providing VoIP when nobody else was, they were involved in the math coprocessor and graphics chipset markets. The company went public in 1997 and just 2 years later they launch what is now the lifeblood of the company, their VoIP service, which has obviously evolved significantly over the last 15 years. Their pricing structure is interesting and quite unique to say the least. You can’t simply go online and pick cookie cutter plans but rather you have to request a quote and they will customize the plan to fit your exact needs, a great option for complex businesses with large call volumes. Their pricing isn’t the cheapest but that’s because it isn’t their focus, their focus rather is on offering the best service possible for businesses, and still saving them thousands per year. 8×8 is known for providing incredible customer service and is a great option for most businesses.
Ringcentral – Ringcentral is another large provider with a highly recognized name in the Business VoIP sector. The company was found in 1999 and is still run by the original founder, who became the CEO when the company went public with their IPO in 2013. The companies flagship service is Ringcentral Office, price for it range from $25-$45 per month or more if your business needs extra phone lines and such. The service is incredibly popular because they offer an extensive range of business solutions from complex phone systems needed by businesses today to toll free numbers and even international numbers. Ringcentral helps business saves $1,000 per year and sometimes over $10,000 for larger businesses. They have incredible users rating and this will be the best option for many businesses looking to save money.
Vonage Business – In the last few years Vonage launch a separate service that targeted the business VoIP market. Their service has been widely successful among businesses due to Vonages’ great reptuation in the residential VoIP market, it’s simplicity of use and by their ability to eliminate the complexity that often times comes with complex VoIP phone systems. They offer several base plans starting at only $39.99 per month with an extra fee per line added thereafter. They also offer the ability to customize a plan that meets the exact needs of your business. Generally for more complex situations you have to request a quote. The reps at Vonage are very knowledgeable, known for their incredible customer service and will do everything in their power to find you the best plan at the best price.
Ooma Office – Ooma Office is a separate service offer by it’s parent company Ooma and it is a business phone solution that like the VoIP services uses your high-speed Internet connection to connect calls, but it is far cheaper that most but still comes with TONs of amazing features and some of the best call quality in the industry, a virtual receptionist, on-hold music and much more. It’s also super easy to setup and cheaper, with no complex phone system required and comes with 24/7 customer support. The cost is unbelievable too with plans starting at just $19.99 per month and going up, depending on the number of lines and users you need. Ooma Office however doesn’t offer the complex phone systems that some large business require and is much better for small to mid-sized businesses.
Nextiva – Nextiva offers a wide range of services for businesses with standard preset plans starting at just $19.95 per month and going up to $29.95 per month. As with all of the other companies if you have complex phone system needs you will need to contact them for a customized quote. As with most of the other companies they offer a cloud-hosted phone system and a 30-day free trial. They also have very good review and a great reputation for wonderful customer service with the company serving around 100,000 satisfied customers.
Dual Providers Of Mobile & VoIP
The majority of the VoIP providers above offer a mobile app that allows you to use your VoIP service on your mobile phone when you have a high-speed data connection or WiFi. These calls do eat into your allotted data with your carrier so they are in-theory, limited. This is not the case when you are on WiFi, where using the App gives you the exact same calling limits that you plan provides. There is however one carrier that we know of that offers you a free cell phone, albeit with a very limited plan, with the free service comes free unlimited VoIP calling when on WiFi.
FreedomPop – FreedomPop is a very unique company that offers limited cell phone plans for free. With the free plan you can get unlimited calls and messaging while on WiFi. This means unlimited VoIP calls and messaging at no cost to you, all you need it their app on your FreedomPop smart phone. The company also offers mobile unlimited plans for much cheaper that the big 4 (Spring, Verizon, AT&T and T-mobile). If you don’t have a FreedomPop compatible smartphone you will have to purchase one initially in order to user the service, however most Spring phone compatible. You can learn more about FreedomPop in our extensive FreedomPop review we wrote.
Smartphone App Providers Only
There are several non-traditional providers that started out as chat services that have since added VoIP calling. The major players are listed below and are all great for making calls on your smartphone. The only issue with them is that you can only call other users of the app. This shouldn’t be an issues if you have a voice plan with your carrier but could help A LOT in saving your precious minutes (if you still have a plan that limits your minutes)
Facebook – With the Facebook messenger app if you have a reliable Internet connection you can make unlimited VoIP calls to any of your Facebook friends. Facebook obviously didn’t start out with the plan to offer calling but their never ending appetite to expand their reach brought them to this point. It’s super simple to use. All you have to do is fire up the Messenger app, select the friend you want to call and tap the phone icon and the app will make the call. You can also chat with any Facebook friend of yours through the app and set it up to receive notifications just like text messages. The great thing about all of this is that it is totally free.
WhatsApp – Anyone can download WhatsApp in the Google Play/Android store or Apple iOS store. WhatsApp started as a chat only app and over the years has grown into one of the most popular messaging and calling apps for smartphones. When they decided it was time to add calling to the mix, in the summer of 2015, it was met with great excitement but the calling feature hasn’t been utilized by most users. Calls are made by accessing their private VoIP networks and like Facebook, calls can only be made to other App users, as is the case with messages as well. Making calls is just like Facebook in that you simply launch the app, choose the contact and tap the phone icon. As with all VoIP services you must have a good Internet connection for the calls to go through and remain clear. Our experience with WhatsApp calling has been it is very high quality. WhatsApp is free for the first year and costs just $0.99 per year thereafter. A great deal for all of the excellent features it providers, though Facebook is cheaper.
Viber – Viber is very similar to WhatsApp and was started at a smartphone chat app with the VoIP calling featured added after it was largely established. It is also a closed network where one can only called other Viber users and as always you must have an Internet or high-speed data connection to make calls. Viber is incredibly popular with over 600 million users, but still doesn’t come close to WhatsApp 1 billion plus users. Viber is 100% free like Face book and includes all of the same features as the FB and WhatsApp apps. Viber also has added a computer application so you can message and call your friends via your computer!
magicApp – The magicJack App comes to us from magicJack and is officially called the ‘magicApp’. This smartphone app is just like the ones listed above but with one key feature added. With it you can call numbers outside their ecosystem. This gives you the ability to call any number from the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is a HUGE feature and means that when overseas you could call your family members back in the U.S. on their number, all for free. The app also offers the ability to text/chat but texting is a premium feature that you have to pay for. It costs just $1.99 per month or $14.99 per year. Users that subscribe to the paid service with a magicJack device and number get the premium app for free. Never before have we seen an app like this that allows free calling to any U.S. number. This rare feature hasn’t exactly caught on as the magicApp is not very popular in comparison to the three messaging / calling service listed above, though we think everybody should have magicApp! If the company markets their app right and eventually offers free messaging they have a unique opportunity to dominate this niche market, which has been shown to be MASSIVE with over 1.5 billion users between WhatsApp and Viber.
Other VoIP Providers
There are many great VoIP options to choose from. We covered the ones we are most familiar with above but do have plans to review other small companies as we continue to develop TheVoIPHub. Some other companies you can expect to see reviews of and may want to consider include all of the following
Skype For Business
*We can’t speak to the quality of this because we have yet to review them.
*This list is not meant to be exhaustive and there are many other small but great VoIP providers that we have not listed here.
Our VoIP Comparisons
We have written and are always working on new VoIP comparisons to help you choose between all of the great VoIP options listed above. We know choosing a VoIP provider can be confusing with the myriad of great options out there so we have come to the rescue. To see our list of comparisons visit our comparisons page. We hope you enjoy it and these truly help you wade through all of the information in this difficult decision making process. We feel that you can’t go wrong is choosing nearly all of the providers listed above, it really just depends on your needs. Regardless of who you decide to go with we strongly urge you to make the switch from the dinosaur-aged landline providers and stop the madness of getting gauged each and every month!