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Google Voice? Skype? VoIP? Android? Verizon?

PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 12:25 pm
by zachlr
So I own the Motorola Droid on Verizon. I'm looking into getting a VoIP service like Google Voice or Skype as an alternative to my regular calling plan, but every time I try to figure out what to do, I become further confused. What I'm looking for is a VoIP service to use independently of my regular calling plan. I have a few reasons for doing so: 1) another number -- in case I ever lose access to my Verizon number, I'll have something to fall back on, and it also provides for separate numbers for different purposes (ex. personal and work numbers). 2) Independence of my current service -- should I find myself in a situation where all I have access to is WiFi (not voice or 3G), I'll still be able to make calls/texts. 3) Calling won't require my plan's minutes, or even data if using WiFi (this point is minimal, though). 4) Freedom from any constraints on my calling plan -- I'm not the administrator of my account/plan (admin could place access policies such as time of day or recipient of call that prohibit calling/SMS, or suspend service). 5) Moreover, and probably most importantly, privacy -- I don't want my account's administrator (and therefore, Verizon) to see who I'm calling or texting by looking at the bill. It might sound funny, but it is indeed one of my primary motivations for getting an alternative. 6) Last, if I was being really paranoid, VoIP may provide some type of encryption (like Skype), and would not be subject to traceability like cell towers would be (though their capabilities are probably much greater than I realize); this point should also be considered minimal, though. Another advantage to VoIP is recognized where Verizon discontinues 3G/data connectivity while a voice call is in progress.

Google Voice comes to mind: it's free, provides a separate number, and is (seemingly) independent of the primary carrier. There are definitely a few caveats though. Upon looking closer, I discovered that using GV on a phone, even an Android phone, is not VoIP; GV merely provides an intermediary number as a rendezvous for calls. In this scenario, GV is still using the primary carrier. This fails to fulfill points 2) 3) 4) and 6). Further, GV spoofs caller ID of incoming calls so that they appear correctly. This seems to obliterate point 5). Though GV doesn't support calls over data, it was brought to my attention that upcoming versions of Android will have native support for SIP, the underlying VoIP protocol used in desktop versions of GV. Would it be possible to use GV on Android over data in order to solve these problems, such as the Gmail GV interface with Flash (which would be inconvenient as all)? Another tiny point of consideration is that GV integrates with the phone's main contact list; I would prefer them to be separate, such as in Skype. In the future, GV may provide everything I need, but for now, GV for Android doesn't meet my requirements. (And if someone could confirm all of this, that would be great.)

This brings us to Skype. Probably the world's leading VoIP provider; it's inexpensive, works on Android, allows you to call phones, gives you a number, and is VoIP, and therefore independent of the primary carrier. Skype, however, is not perfect either. The main thing that draws my attention is Skype Mobile. Skype Mobile is not Skype on Android (that app is just called Skype), but rather it appears to be an app released by Verizon Wireless. a) I do not want any of Verizon proprietary software on my phone, b) it is made clear that these calls are carried by Verizon and charged to your bill. I need clarification here. It is my understanding that a Skype call would be carried by Verizon from the app over the voice channel, to Skype, and then to the recipient's phone. (Skype to Skype calls are still free.) In this configuration, Skype seems to operate in much the same way as GV, and might present the same shortfalls concerning points 2) 3) 4) 5) and 6). Because I don't know even know this for sure, much less the details of how it works, I can't say which points it would infringe upon specifically, but I would rather not take any chances. (Clarification here would be much appreciated.)

Here's the huge question though, can the regular Skype app for Android be used with the Motorola Droid on Verizon? It's an important question, because if the answer is yes, that would fulfill all of my requirements listed above. That is to say, using the Skype app for Android (not Skype Mobile) calls would be carried over data (3G or WiFi hopefully, I thought I read it was one or the other), independent of the primary carrier, freeing me from constraints, and protecting my privacy. It seems like there would be no reason for Skype Mobile to exist if it were possible to use the regular app, but I don't know. True VoIP would still have some limitations though, such as the large amount of data usage. Though I have unlimited data, if I use too much, they might complain, also 3G or public WiFi might not be fast enough to support Skype calls. Also, a huge lingering problem would be texting over Skype. Whether or not you pay by month or by minute, texts are always charged individually. I would miss the unlimited texting I get from Verizon, not to mention Skype texts are a bit pricey at $0.112. Being that texting is probably my primary means of communication compared to calling, that could be a bit of a hindrance. I'd rather not have to pay ~$40/month for texting alone, in addition to my Verizon plan. (Technically I could use GV for texting and Skype for calling, but again it would be hugely inconvenient.)

As you can see, there's a lot to consider, and it can be kind of difficult when you get right down to it. Of course, GV is free, so trying it can't hurt, even though at this point it doesn't seem to do much good for me. By no means are my options limited to Skype and GV, if you have any other suggestions I would love to hear them. If you have any clarifications, thoughts, ideas, or just your opinion, by all means post a reply. In the end we all just want a little freedom ;).


Re: Google Voice? Skype? VoIP? Android? Verizon?

PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 3:08 pm
by insomaniacal
I've got no experience using Android phones, but I know there was a hack for iOS that allowed you to bypass that restriction (Skype calls get routed to regular voice). Actually, it might have been a separate application now that I think about it. Maybe there's something similar for Android?

Just a thought...Sorry I cant provide anything concrete.

Re: Google Voice? Skype? VoIP? Android? Verizon?

PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2011 11:26 am
by zachlr
I know it's been a while, but time for an update.

(Thanks for the reply, insomniacal, but I don't think that is quite what I'm looking for.)

So I downloaded the Google Voice app, and began the very annoying setup process, and finally quit on the Verify Phone Number step. Again, I want this to be as isolated as possible from my primary carrier. As someone else said, GV is more of a complex calling card system, not a VoIP service. I don't want them forwarding anything to my primary number, so that didn't work.

I then downloaded the official Skype app. Calling (both to PSTN and Skype users) is supported over WiFi only in the U.S. (I didn't think there would be much significance in the country you lived in?). Further, SMS is not supported at all by the current version of the Skype for Android app (it is for the iPhone, however). So that means no texting, and no calling unless I'm near a public WiFi hotspot. That didn't work for me either.

I'm now looking for a SIP based Direct In/Out Dialing (that is, a dedicated phone number) VoIP provider. SIP isn't a must, but I like it because it's open source -- I don't like using proprietary stuff, and I can use any SIP Android or PC app. Using Direct In/Out Dialing (dedicated phone number), it should act like a Skype Out service. I haven't come up with anything yet though for a few reasons. First, there are tons of providers. Where do you even start with a list like that? Second, one think Skype has over every other VoIP company is prepaid cards to load your account with. I can't use a credit card to pay, so that would have been really convenient. A provider that takes Bitcoin would be very ideal, but I have yet to find a suitable company that does. I suppose I could use visa prepaid cards or whatever, though, if I could find somewhere to get them.

So if you know of any dedicated phone number VoIP providers, preferably SIP based, I'm all ears. Also, if you have any information about VoIP or just an idea to offer, please post a reply. Thanks.