Your smartphone costs a fortune in monthly fees. But there are new ways to get unlimited voice calling and significantly decrease the number of cell voice minutes you need. So pull out your smartphone, and we’ll fire up a few tools to potentially save you hundreds of dollars on your cell phone bill this year.
Wi-Fi Calling on Cell Phones Explained
Your cell phone can communicate in four distinct ways: voice calls, texts, data over cell networks, and data over Wi-Fi. What many people don’t realize is that connecting via Wi-Fi doesn’t count at all against your cell phone bill. So how can you exploit this loophole to cut down on your overall cell phone bill?
Making voice calls on you computer over the Internet is nothing new; but you can now combine your cell phone with Wi-Fi to make calls for free on your mobile devices. This could enable you to talk over Wi-Fi and downgrade your cell service to the cheapest plan available – one with fewer voice minutes than you’re currently paying for.
Facebook recently announced that iPhone users who have the Facebook Messenger app installed can now make free phone calls to other iPhones users through the app. You’ll be alerted to an incoming call with a Facebook notification rather than with your phone’s ringtone, but if you have a Facebook friend with an iPhone whom you call a lot, this could help you conserve cell minutes.
Facebook is just the latest in a long line of upstarts taking aim at the established cell service market, like Line2 and Viber, but the biggest player is Skype. Their mobile app lets you make free Skype calls to anyone in the world with a free Skype account. But if you want to call any phone number in the US or Canada, whether or not the person you’re calling has a Skype account, you can pay $3 a month for this unlimited privilege. While $3 a month isn’t free, it could save you more than that on your cell service bill. Calling is simple: just fire up the app and dial the number.
Google offers a comprehensive service called Google Voice. With it, you get one unified phone number that rings on your cell or your landline, plus tons of cool features like transcribing your voicemail – and it makes calls over Wi-Fi. But beware: When you use Google Voice to make calls from your cell phone, it still counts against your cell phone minutes, unless you use an additional app like GrooVe IP or Sipdroid in conjunction with your Google Voice account. This combination will give you completely free Wi-Fi calling that doesn’t count against your minutes.
[Related: How to Save $1000 on Your Data Plan]
T-Mobile and Bobsled
T-Mobile has embraced free Wi-Fi calling whole hog. They provide an app called Bobsled to make free calls over Wi-Fi. You can call any US number. It works from any Android or Apple iOS device – not just phones, but computers and tablets as well. Surprisingly, this free service from T-Mobile does not even require you to be a T-Mobile customer; it works with any carrier. As of right now there are over 2 million Bobsled users, and T-Mobile says 95% of them aren’t T-Mobile subscribers For this reason, Bobsled is my number one pick for best way to make free WiFi calls on your smartphone.
But How’s the Quality?
I’ve tested Wi-Fi calling in a number of circumstances, and generally, the quality is pretty good – sometimes I’m aware of a slight delay, and some tinny audio quality, but overall comparable to what I get using my cell phone to make calls in the traditional way. And remember, making calls over Wi-Fi isn’t just about saving a few bucks by downgrading to a cheaper plan. Many people have poor cell reception in the places they use it most – in their own homes or at work – places where they might have an excellent Wi-Fi signal. If this is true for you, you might actually get better quality by making your voice calls using Wi-Fi.
Let us know what you think is the best Wi-Fi calling option on our Facebook page.
Brad Marshland contributed to this story.