Cell Phones as Net Phones: Worth the Hassle?

Voice-over-IP phone services can save you plenty of money, but most also require particular equipment: a special router, an adapter to connect to your phone, or even a Wi-Fi phone. Now, new services promise the cost savings of VoIP on a standard cell phone--but in our tests, they weren't always easy to use.

We looked at services from iSkoot, Rebtel, and VoxLib. iSkoot and VoxLib both permit you to access Skype accounts from typical cell phones; Rebtel uses VoIP technology to let subscribers connect inexpensively with friends and family overseas.

Skype to Go

iSkoot--like similar services from EQO and WebMessenger--retains Skype's graphical interface, but this free application works only with certain Cingular and T-Mobile phones.

After you register at iSkoot's site, iSkoot sends you a text message with a link to a site for downloading the app. Once it's installed, you sign in with your Skype name and password, and your list of contacts is displayed. To initiate a call, you simply click the name of a contact, and you're connected. SkypeOut subscribers can use the application to take advantage of that service's cheap rates for making phone calls to non-Skype users.

VoxLib's Vox for Skype, another free service, provides a voice interface to Skype. You need a SkypeIn account, which costs about $38 per year and allows you to receive incoming calls from non-Skype users.

To set up Vox for Skype, you dial your SkypeIn number from your cell phone. When the ringing starts, you press the 1 key to connect to the service. You're then instructed to type in the first three letters of the name of the person you want to call, which can be awkward on a numeric keypad. The first couple of times we tried to use the service, we were disconnected because we didn't enter the contact name in time. Once you do enter the name correctly, you're connected to that person. Voice quality, as with any Skype-based service, depended on the recipient's connection and the equipment at the other end of the call.

The biggest problem with Vox for Skype is how time consuming it can be. On the PC version of Skype, you can see if your contact is online and click to connect to them. Repeatedly pressing keys on your cell phone to get the same information is cumbersome.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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