Phone calls in the internet era

Phone calls in the internet era

When I was using android/blackberry, I had been content with the messaging on those platforms. Android had google talk & blackberry had blackberry messenger. When I bought my first iPhone, however, I had to find an alternative. Sure there was iMessages, but not many of my friends were on iOS at that time. Also on iPhone, neither bbm, nor google talk were naturally supported. That’s when I decided to give whatsapp a try. It seemed to be a great idea. The service identified you through your mobile number & allowed you to message for (almost) free to anyone else who had the app downloaded to their phone. And in today’s era, where smartphones & data plans proliferated, that meant almost everyone. Be it people on iOS, Android or Blackberry.

While I was going about happily messaging people on whatsapp, a handful my colleagues said they didn’t use it. “Are they out of their minds…”, was my first thought. “Who in the right frame of mind wouldn’t use whatsapp! They had smartphones. They had data plans. Why on earth would they still rely on old & antiquated text messaging”, I thought? But they weren’t! Instead they were using this new thing called Viber!  “You should join it”, they said! “It allows you to message other people for free!”. “No, thank you”, I said. “I already have whatsapp for that. Don’t want to use two kinds of services that do the same thing”.


VOIP Calls


And that’s where the misunderstanding happened. They said “messaging”. They didn’t mention anything about no phone calls! Fast forward to today & I am a happy customer of the messaging & VoIP calling service. Wait, did I just say messaging AND VoIP calling? Yes, I did! VoIP calling. For free! Almost free! Except whatever you use out of your wifi or 3G plan. And that doesn’t amount to a lot in any case. Let’s do the math here to see how economical VoIP calling on Viber could be.

If you make a Viber call & talk for an hour, it consumes circa 30 MB of data. Now let’s say you happened to live in India & were on a Rs 100 – 300 MB 3G plan. Then for an hour of talk time, you’d end up being charged Rs 10. Yes, Rs 10 for talking on the phone for 60 minutes! Now if that isn’t cheap, I don’t know what is. The cheapest talk plans come at around Rs 30 per hour. The Viber thing is 3 times cheaper in comparison. Also, the phone companies round off your calls to the nearest minute, whereas on VoIP, you would be charged exactly for what you used, to the last second. That’s not only cheaper, but also fairer.

So much for the quantity, but the quality also works out fine. Only caveat is that you have to be in at least a good Edge coverage area. Yes, it works on Edge too! But the “good” coverage part is important. If you are on a carrier which runs on 1800 Mhz frequency in your town, the coverage of both 3G & Edge will generally be bad at places like inside of homes, offices, flyovers, subway stations etc. If you are present or passing through such places, you will experience poor call quality and call drops, more so than you do with your regular voice calls.

So don’t get stuck with old fashioned voice calling. That’s what your cellphone company wants you to do. Switch to VoIP calling instead & save yourself some big money. Viber is a good option to start with. Hopefully many more will come along.

Do you already use VoIP calling? Did you know that call centres use it to economise on their phone bills? Let us know through your questions and comments.