It's the reason you can chat to your friends in the US and your Granny on her landline, But you probably haven't given a moment's thought to what a VoIP app actually is - or what the heck VoIP even means. Read on for your quick guide on how to make voice calls over the internet, and find out which apps you need to download ASAP.

You know the reason you’re able to talk to friends all around the world? Organise group video chats? And make calls to expensive landlines without getting a hefty phone bill? It all comes down to four letters? V-o-I-P.

We’re talking Voice over Internet Provider. VoIP apps are what allow you to make calls through the internet, rather than through your mobile phone provider’s network.

VoIP apps make it quick, easy, and generally cheap for you to make calls. They work in different ways too. You could call from PC to PC via an instant messenger service like Skype. Or, by calling from an IP-enabled phone to a telephone network, like Vonage.

What’s more, VoIP apps aren’t just great for making calls: most include a messaging function, and many allow you to make video calls as well.

The big advantage of making VoIP calls is that they won’t eat into your phone minutes. This is great if you’re making international calls to friends, family members, or business contacts. 

Thanks to faster internet connections, the quality of a VoIP call is often the same as one made through your mobile network.

VoIP is pretty fabulous. It’s essentially revolutionised how we talk to people. Just remember, you do need internet access to make a VoIP call. This also means if you’re not making your calls through a Wi-Fi connection, you’ll be tapping into your data allowance. Unless you’re on one of our Unlimited data plans.

As a general rule, expect to use up 0.5 MB of your allowance for each minute of VoIP conversation.

VoIP apps generally aren’t preinstalled on mobile phones. Most VoIP apps will require access to information such as your contacts and data. That includes your phone number, name, and email address. Some VoIP app providers will also ask you to set up a separate account with them.

To call anyone through a VoIP app, they’ll need to have the same app installed. Otherwise you won’t be able to talk to them through the app. On the plus side, most VoIP apps are user-friendly enough for even the least tech minded people.

One thing to remember: don’t use VoIP apps to make emergency calls. 999 should always be your go-to for urgent situations.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular VoIP apps and what you need to know about them.

 

 

Facebook Messenger

Since pretty much everyone on the planet has a Facebook account, Facebook Messenger app’s ideal. It links right to your Facebook contact list, which makes things much easier.

It’s separate from the actual Facebook app, and is a great way to reach people through audio and video VoIP calls. When it comes to call quality and clarity, Facebook Messenger performs well. However, the app has been criticised by some for being a ‘battery drainer’.

FaceTime

Preinstalled and free to use, FaceTime is one of the best video features included on all iPhones and iPads. Messaging isn’t included as there’s a separate iMessenger app on iDevices. The only catch? The person you’re trying to call also needs an iPhone or iPad.

Google Hangouts

If you use Google Android, you’ll already have a Google Hangouts account. Google Hangouts syncs seamlessly to your Gmail account as well as working on Apple devices. Google Hangouts offers good-quality VoIP calls, as well as a video chat option. Even better? You can call ‘any phone number in the world’ for free, or at low rates. So, the next time you’re stranded in the Himalayas on your mum’s birthday, this is the app to try.

GrooVe IP

You can make VoIP calls and send messages with GrooVe IP. You can also call landline and mobile numbers directly, by purchasing or earning credits.

A free version is available, but you can also pay for an upgraded version without ads. This one only works on Android devices like the latest from Samsung or Huawei.

Snapchat

Funky filters are only part of what everyone’s favourite social app, Snapchat has to offer. You can also chat to your pals via video chat, call them using the app, and leave voice and video messages. Now there’s no conceivable reason for you to ever stop using Snapchat. Ever. The video chatting also works with Snap’s Lenses.

KakaoTalk

If you can’t handle a chat without cute and cuddly emoticons, then KakaoTalk is the chat app for you. It also allows you to make individual and group VoIP calls, send messages and schedule appointments.

Signal Private Messenger

Signal is the call and messaging app all about privacy, with a large focus on data protection. The app uses an advanced end-to-end encryption protocol for calls made and messages sent. You don’t need to set up a separate user profile. The app integrates with your phone number and address book. So, do you want your calls and messages to self-destruct without a trail like a Mission: Impossible doc? If your answer’s yes, then this is the VoIP app to use. Promise we won’t tell.

Skype

‘Skyping’ is now a recognised verb, a bit like ‘hoovering’. That alone tells you how popular this video chat and voice call app is. There were many who gave up on it after trying a decade ago. Those jittery calls weren’t for everyone. No problem. This VoIP pioneer continues to innovate, with crystal-clear audio and video connections regardless of whether you’re calling London or Lomé. Skype also lets users chat via text and make voice and video calls without signing up for an account. Or, you can use your Facebook or Microsoft account to sign in.

The best bit? You can also call people who don’t have Skype on their landlines or mobile numbers by purchasing credits. If you use VoIP for work, there’s also a separate Skype for Business app. And if you’ve ever thought of having a VoIP party, this is the app: you can now call up to 50 people at the same time with Skype.

Slack

Familiar with working together on a project with different teams? All based in different locations? Of course you are. Then you’ll know that Slack can be a true collaboration and communication lifesaver. In addition to the existing messaging and file sharing options, you can also make VoIP calls. Slack’s not letting up anytime soon.

Viber

With high-quality audio, Viber is one of the most popular and highest-rated VoIP and messaging apps. Viber-to-Viber audio and video calls are free, and you can call landlines and mobiles at low rates. Many users see it as a perfect combination of Skype and WhatsApp, with fun extras like stickers, doodles, and unique emoticons.

Vonage

Easy to install and set up, with Vonage you can make free calls and hold free video chats. You can also indulge in all the free texting and group messaging your heart could ever desire.

For a charge, you can also call domestic and international mobile numbers and landlines.

WhatsApp Messenger

Normally just called ‘WhatsApp’, we’re betting you use this messaging app on an hourly basis. Or, more realistically, maybe every 5 minutes? And, like Skype, WhatsApp’s become a verb. “WhatsApp that to me, will you?” Yes, it’s part of pretty much everyone’s world now. One of the best things about WhatsApp is that it continues to evolve. Who doesn’t love leaving voice messages for everyone in a chat?

Zoom

Yes, it’s the big one and really needs no introduction. Zoom’s best known for video chats and virtual dating, but you can call with or without the image. You know, for those bad hair days.

 

And don’t forget. All Three customers can use Three Wi-Fi Calling. It’s ideal when there’s no mobile signal indoors, but you still need to make a call.

 

Main pic: Pexels via Alok Sharma