Tuesday, April 10, 2007

To Skype or not to Skype?

We're looking into ways of lowering our phone bill. Right now we have unlimited long distance, but it's part of a packaged deal. It would be cool if we could get rid of that bill all-together and not have to pay the corporate machine each month.

I had looked into Skype before and decided against it, but now I'm reconsidering. Skype allows you to make phone calls from your computer through the internet. Instead of using land-line, it uses VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). We would still need DSL, and since our DSL is through Sprint, we would have to get a new account with someone else.

Our Skype username is: pooroldflick

Here's how it works:
Skype is free to call anyone else with Skype. It's kind of like mixing an Instant Messanger chat program with the phone. You can "chat" like you do in AOL Instant Messenger (or Yahoo), or you can call the person and talk for free (if they have Skype). You can also do video conferencing through Skype.

To call an actual phone number, you'll need to get SkypeOut. SkypeOut costs $29.95/year with unlimited calling to anyone inside US and Canada. Or you can buy SkypeOut credits for $0.02/minute. You can also call outside of the US for reletively cheap, depending on the country you're calling. With a $10 SkypeOut credit, you get around 500 minutes of calling any regular phone number.

Then to receive a call from a normal phone, you need to sign up for SkypeIn. For $38/year you get a voicemail account, and you get to select the area code for your new phone number. So, if I picked 574, they would give us a new 574 number that anyone could call. They also have a $12 for 3 months package if you wanted to try it out.

So with SkypeOut and a SkypeIn accounts, you have a regular phone line using your computer for $68/year. But what about a phone?

Skype sells phone that use your Skype account. They're a little pricey, but you're still saving money. They have phones that plug into your USB (for $40), along with wireless phones that you can use around the house.

What happens if your computer isn't on? You can give Skype a call-forwarding number. If I entered my cell phone, it would route the call to my cell, using my SkypeOut account. Or just let voicemail pick it up.

They also have WiFi phones that use your Skype account for $160. You can use the phone anytime it picks up a WiFi (wireless internet) signal. Our house has a WiFi router, so it'd be like having a wireless phone around the house that we could use other places as well.

You don't have to buy a phone if your computer has a microphone (all Macs have a built in mic, and the new Macs have built in video cameras).

Skype has all kinds of add-on "extras" too. With one add-on (or plug-in), you can work on a Word document with someone together.

Other things you can do? 10-person conference call. They also offer an SMS account that allows you to send text messages to cell phones and Sykpe users.

As far as quality of calls, it's similar to the quality of a cell phone.

Is it worth it? We're trying to decide.


(sorry this one wasn't about Cora)

1 comment:

dapetz said...

I haven't used Skype that much so I can't say a whole lot about totally switching over to it. However, we have been using VOIP for almost 3 years now (through Vonage) and it works great. I would say that it has equal quality and reliability as a landline, as long as your internet service is reliable that is. We get our internet through Comcast cable so we have totally eliminated the phone company. VOIP phones tend to have many more features than your conventional ones and cost a whole lot less. We love ours and would never go back. It costs us $25 a month for unlimited long distance. With Vonage you have a phone adapter so you can still use the phone you already have, and as of recently they have added local Plymouth phone numbers. I would say make the switch to VOIP, choosing between a service like Vonage and Skype really depends on your needs I think.