It seems our entire world is going digital; first cell phones, then music, TV and now home phones. However, like with all new technology there is a growth period and some confusion between brands and styles and VoIP (Voiceover Internet Protocol) is no exception.
Skype is one of the first companies to really make an impact on the Internet phone market. Since Skype is such a popular application and tool we felt it was only fair to explain how it works and how it compares to other popular VoIP services.
What is Skype?
Skype is a free software application that works similarly to instant messaging. You download the software and build your list of contacts, when they are online you can call and talk to them for free. This enables users to make free phone calls to other countries through their computer for free. This works out great for gamers that are working as teams from various parts of the country or world, for professionals that have international business dealings, communicating with family in other countries or members of the military stationed overseas. The sound quality is great and all you need is a head set.
There are currently more than 521 million user accounts registered with Skype. However, the downside to Skype s genius is people were tethered to their computers. Skype was never designed to replace your home phone, but to merely use your computer as a tool to supplement the capabilities your phone lacked. To counter this Skype introduced SkypeIn, SkypeOut and eventually Skype Pro.
SkypeIn is a paid service where people that do not have Skype can call you from a traditional phone. Skype provides you with a traditional phone number, that you can give to your friends and family, and they can call you just like normal. However, for their calls to reach you, you have to be on your computer and signed into your Skype account.
The beauty of this feature is if you live in a different country, but your family is in the United States you can request a local U.S. phone number as your SkypeIn Virtual Number and their calls to you wouldn t cost anything more than a local call.
SkypeOut is also a paid service that gives you, the Skype subscriber, the ability to make phone calls to traditional land lines using your Skype software. You can also call cell phones for about 2.1 per minute. SkypeOut also charges a connection fee for less than a dollar to most industrialized countries.
Skype vs. Vonage
Vonage is also a VoIP service, but works differently than Skype. Vonage s goal is to replace your home phone service provider and make your home phone use almost identical to what you re already used to, except instead of plugging your phone into a jack in the wall you plug it into your high-speed Internet modem; skipping the computer completely. These services have started out slow, but are gaining momentum.
Skype does not provide any emergency services and in the VoIP community is commonly referred to as a softphone.
Skype has recently started selling WiFi phone hardware that looks and behaves just like a wireless phone. The transmitter is plugged into a USB port on your computer. These phones connect to your computer for you, freeing you from the requirement of being at the computer while you talk. However, these phones are relatively expensive and your computer still has to be on.
Skype in the future
Skype is very popular and its popularity is only growing around the world especially in Europe where the software was originally developed. In early 2008, Skype joined with Sony to incorporate the software into the PSP Slim & Lite handheld gaming device. Using a wireless connection and Skype you can use your PSP like a phone.
Skype and other VoIP service have gotten off to a slow start, but as high-speed Internet becomes standard and the digital age takes off they are going to become the standard and traditional phone lines just might be going dead.