1. Computing

iCall – Text, Voice and Video App

Free Calls to Any Phone in the US and Canada

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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iCall claims to be the best alternative to Skype, something which everyone does not agree with including me, but it is a good app and has a good service behind. It is more or less like the other VoIP apps and services out there, with many nice features, but the thing that makes it stand out is that it gives you 5 minutes of free calls to any landline and mobile phone to the US and Canada. iCall also allows free video conference calls with up to 10 people, and it is one of the rare apps to offer that.

Pros

  • Free video voice calls to any phone in the US and Canada.
  • Offer free video conferencing with up to 10 participants.
  • Many features.

Cons

  • No speaker phone functionality in the softphone.
  • Has some voice quality issues.
  • No integration with other platforms, not even with Skype, its owner.

Review

Two things need to be said about iCall. Firstly, it allows you to make free voice calls from anywhere in the world to any landline or mobile phone in the US and Canada. Too bad it is limited to these two countries – Gmail calling allows that too, so at least one could be different. In fact, calls to these two destination countries are cheaper so they make good participants for giveaways. Note that you need to bear with around 10 seconds of advertisement before being able to place any of these free calls. Also note that the free call does not last more than 5 minutes, so if your conversation is not over, you can dial the number again and redo the whole process any number of times you want. This is quite clumsy and not good at all for professional calls, but as you know, nothing is really free in this world except the air we breathe. Even that, if we give credit to science fiction movies, might be taxed one day.

The second thing is that it gives you the ability to make free video conferencing with up to 10 participants. Now this is a crowd compared to other apps. For instance, Skype allows only two persons to video call at a time. The only app that does better in terms of number of buddies in the conversation is ooVoo, which allows 12.

iCall is finally just like most of the other VoIP apps. You download and install the app on your machine, you register for free and you can start using it to communicate in three ways – text, voice and video. The app is not very bulky and the interface is simple, maybe a little too simple – there is no speaker phone facility, which is great in so many cases for mobile users. You also get notified of incoming calls even when the application is not running on your mobile phone. You can have a version of iCall for your Windows PC, Mac, Linux, iOS (iPhone, iPod and iPad) and Android phone.

What is free and what is not? For free, you get to text (instant messaging), voice call and video call your friends who are also using iCall, besides the ad-supported free 5 minutes calls to the US and Canada. As is the case with nearly all VoIP apps, you have to pay for calls any landline and mobile phone in the world. The rates are at the market average and cheap to certain popular destinations. You call with prepaid credit. On the rates, iCall fares better than Skype.

If you pay around $10 a month, you get the Total Access feature, which includes unlimited and ad-free calling to the US and Canada, a personal inbound number, and priority support. This paid feature is seemingly tailored for US and Canada residents who can then turn their phones into a domestic phone service, with unlimited calls for 10 bucks, with a phone number and any length of calls you can make and receive. Seems mathematically interesting, but less a detail – connectivity.

To use the app, you need to have Internet connection on your mobile or PC. Now if you want to make full use of the alternative mobile phone service, you need to be connected anywhere under the sky. Wi-Fi fails when you walk out of the house or office. 3G can be relatively expensive, because these calls consume data, not much, but they do require a 3G plan. So, include a 3G data plan to your cost, which possibly doubles it.

There is in fact another detail to consider in the cellular-alternative business. iCall is not likely to give the same call quality as your cellular service will. The call quality is not that great and even if it was, VoIP is not up to the level of cellular technology in terms of voice quality. Besides, even if iCall is giving HD voice, the quality depends on so many factors, including your phone model and the bandwidth.

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