For a combination of reasons, voice plans on phones are increasingly inexpensive and becoming considered less vital than in previous times.
For one thing, chat apps have taken on more of the roles of voice calls as less people see the necessity of conducting an actual conversation every time they communicate.
Part of the decline of voice calls is driven by Voice over IP (VoIP), which transmits voice calls as ordinary internet traffic. This presents several key advantages.
For one thing, it helps cut back on the required voice minutes. Another advantage is that it is able to provide coverage to areas that are not well-served by cellular networks. By running across a wi-fi network, VoIP can operate within buildings or areas poorly served by mobile operators.
Finally, it can provide a handy alternative to expensive roaming plans when travelling abroad, by using the wi-fi offered locally.
Here are some of the best apps available providing VoIP.
1. Mobile VoIP
This app is available free for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. After downloading you can register with one of several supported VoIP plans.
The service offers three call options: a standard VoIP call, a call back option or local access numbers. The call back option sets up a call to your phone through the app and connects you with your contact.
The user pre-loads credit onto the app, with the remaining balance clearly displayed when you make a call.
Local access numbers allow users in certain countries to set up a call in case of a weak internet connection, charging for the local call and the tariff of the destination.
The app also allows you to send SMS messages.
Available for all major smartphone operating systems, the Facebook-owned messaging service not only provides one-to-one and group text chats between users of the app, but also has a voice over IP function built in, including videos.
It has the advantage of being built into the normal functionality of the messaging service, so that a normal chat can be switched to voice when required.
WhatsApp recently abandoned its annual nominal charge of $1, so it is completely free to download and use.
Viber, also available on Android, iOS and Windows Phone, allows you to place voice calls over data completely free to any other Viber user.
You can also place voice calls to non-users using the Viber Out calls. They are still cheaper than most cellular voice services and provide the same rates for international calls as on domestic.
The app can move seamlessly between wi-fi and cellular networks without dropping calls. Its features are the same across all operating systems. There is a desktop version for Windows and it comes with a picture-sharing feature.
No registration is required, and like WhatsApp, Viber integrates with your existing contact list.
4. Google Hangouts Dialler
Using the Hangouts app, you can make calls to any phone number in the world without using your voice minutes, with most calls to the US and Canada free.
You download and install the Dialler separately to the original Hangouts app. You can then access all voice calling features either directly from Hangouts or place a shortcuts to Hangouts Dialler on your home screen. The app connects with your Google Voice number.
You can use the Outbound Caller ID feature to provide a verified number when calling them, so that your number won’t come up as unknown.
Voice calls to other Hangouts users are free.
Skype is mainly known for video calls, but it is a cost-effective way of conducting normal calls as well. These calls are completely free to other Skype users, but calls can be made to other phone numbers through Skype Out and Skype To Go.
Skype has now added not only mobile video chat but group video calls, meaning that you can conduct a conference call with multiple other users while out and about.
The app also provides completely free texting. It is cross platform, and will work on desktop PCs as well as on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
Skype recently celebrated its tenth anniversary; since launch it has carried two trillion minutes of user conversation.