|Raindrops coming down…|
So Eli and I did a little exploring of VoIP solutions and found four to enable free or low cost calling on phones with unlimited data plans (or over wifi). I tested using the LG Optimus V from VM and the Droid Charge from VZW.
The first two methods use SIP and the third uses Google Voice and Google Chat. The fourth uses Microsoft Skype. Of the four I decided Google Chat was the best if you just want to skip to solution 3.
Quick note on Android SIP clients
|CSipSimple’s Dialer Intercept|
I tested two Android SIP clients, Sipdroid and CSipSimple I found the latter more reliable on receiving calls while the phone was on standby so I used it for all testing. I think SipDroid is designed to work against PBXes but I didn’t want to introduce extra network latency by adding in another layer. I initially had trouble with CSipSimple draining the battery but I downloaded one of the nightly builds instead of using the stable release and that solved the problem –Update: CSipSimple just released the battery drain fix on the Android Market- and I also doubled the registration timing so it wasn’t polling the network as often.
Cons: Free service so who knows about how reliable this will be, higher voice latency than other solutions I tested, only allows you to connect two devices. Received a few spam calls on my SipGate number so they might be recycling numbers too quickly.
Google Voice Callback installs an intercept into the dialer, so when you dial a number it intercepts the call, initiates the call through Google voice which then calls your SipGate number (because incoming calls are free) then once you pick up with CSipSimple it calls the 3rd party number you were dialing.
3 – Google Voice & Google Talk & GrooVe IP ($3.99). *Ben’s Pick*
Cons: Does not work consistently with Google Apps accounts (Google Gmail accounts are fine, I migrated my Google Voice account to a normal Gmail account and that solved the issues for me), not an official Google client so it could break in the future.
4 – Microsoft Skype ($10.49/month)
Pros: Can make calls using a normal cell network (not over IP) if on Verizon. Most popular VoIP service for free Skype to Skype calls.
Cons: Most expensive. Only Skype to Skype calls are free. Otherwise you’re paying Skype rates, which are not too bad: currently $4.49/month for unlimited calling in the U.S., plus $18/month/3 ($18 every 3 months) for a Skype number if you want to receive calls from land-lines.
Verizon Wireless has a custom Skype application that allows you to make and receive calls using the VZW voice network, which is very useful if voice quality is our primary concern.
If you don’t have Verizon phone you have to make calls over Wifi and in my test calls with Kris the latency was pretty high. Also if you’re a VM customer it’s only an extra $15 for their 1200 minute plan so the cost savings are not high enough to make it worthwhile.
How robust is VoIP on Android?
While I like the GrooVe IP solution I won’t be relying on it exclusively. I called Meredith today and he said the audio quality was worse than on Verizon and we did notice a little latency so after awhile we switched over to Verizon. On my end I could hear Meredith better on GrooVe IP than I could on Verizon, I think this is because Verizon suppresses the audio or some of the audio frequencies. While we were talking on Verizon the call dropped so we can’t exactly say cell phones are that robust yet either.