Mobile VoIP update. These are my impressions of GizmoVoip, Truphone, Talkster, and Jajah. I've been using and trying to use them all on my Nokia N80i, which I'm still raving about; especially the VoIP functionality. So how well do these programs work?
First a little perspective. I got them all working in the US over Christmas. As a family we began using GizmoVoIP to call New Zealand in preference to the usual SkypeOut as the Nokia provides an effective Speaker Phone capability. That was worth the extra call costs on these occasions. For the last few weeks I've been back in India. Frankly that is where the real tests and benefits begin. Saved a small fortune already.
At the apartment I have an Indian quality broadband connection; they claim 275K down and 150K up however this afternoon it was 70K down and I have no idea of the up speed. Sometimes I do see the higher speeds, still this is a long way from our office performance or what I get back in SF from Comcast. After some negotiating with our office network adminstrator (port 5060?) GizmoVoIP and Truphone both confirm connections at both places.
After the connection part there is really no comparison in services. Truphone works even when my bandwidth sucks. To far corners of the world it connects and I don't have any problems with just silence. You know where this is going. Nokia provides Gizmo as installed on the N80i. However, Truphone in my view has proven to be the much better service. It does have an advantage currently in calling to the US... (free through the end of March). Note not all my buddies have noted the same and I had my first bad call today Jim Courtney on Truphone.
By contrast GizmoVoIP seems to have a hard time connecting my calls. If bandwidth is tight then nothing definitely happens. As I have money to burn on Gizmo I'd like to use it. I just can't connect any calls. However, they still charge me for some of these attempts. I have a suspicion that these two approaches don't use the same audio codecs. I'm guessing that Truphone's is much more efficient. Ultimately, that's going to be important when HotSpots are overloaded.
Where else is Truphone better? It's much better in it's voice mail feature. It's now integrated into my Nokia speed-dial. works perfectly. Still there is an even more important aspect that seems simple enough. Truphone I think comes out of the UK. They understand how to dial internationally on a mobile. By contrast Gizmo doesn't. It's simple. I travel and most of my numbers are now entered and set-up to be +919899xxxxxx or +44208xxxxyyyy. Mobiles use the + to get to international. Gizmo wants you to use 00 or 011. By using + it doesn't matter if I specify internet or GSM call, the number works. All those + numbers need editing for me to call them from Gizmo. This seems to contridict how mobiles work.
Now having knocked one versus the other. Truphone should come in for a few whacks too. This learning also applies more broadly. Truphone... selling there services to mobiles with Wi-Fi should have a mobile enabled site. While I managed to top up my account it is painful. Give me quickly a mobile.truphone.com. I don't care about fancy graphics. If I'm out of money I want to be able to add it fast from my phone. Gizmo is a step ahead in this regard also providing a link to the Gizmo directory and thus all those free sip numbers. With Truphone I think this is automatic. Still until the whole office is on it...
So how do these two services relate to the likes of Talkster, Jajah or Rebtel and why should I with a VoIP enabled mobile even be interested. First a little about my Talkster experience. Talkster is providing a very generous $5 with their testing at the moment. I tried a Talkster call to Indonesia and then followed with a Truphone call. Again Truphone provided the better audio quality and service. (Note this was still using Truphone to call in to me) Talkster allows you to choose whether you can call in and they will then call out for you. Or like Jajah they will call your phone and that of the party you wish to speak to... simply by clicking on a link.
First challenge. I wanted to call into Talkster using my Internet connection. Afterall it's a free call to the US.. why pay for that leg. However the link click launches my GSM (not sure if I turn my phone to VoIP first) and thus I set it to call me back on my US VoIP number. So I set it to call me and the other party. We connected, and the quality was adequate. Still the bonus of Talkster is I can enter numbers easily in my Nokia Phone browser. That means I can use it over a GPRS connection when necessary to make a call although I doubt I'd use this often.
In principle Jajah offers this too. Except their webpage provides buttons that simply can't initiate a call from my Nokia browser. Their mobile client doesn't work with the N80. Still, why do I need a mobile client? What I do need is a mobile friendly webpage.
Both these services seem to point to a service I'd expect to get from Truphone. Although really it's only really attractive for making international calls. How would I use it? Perhaps to direct calls away from my cellphone to a local number; eg friends house, office etc while making an international call. Both connections then get landline rates. Still I find it hard to find this very compelling.
Overall my curiosity with all this testing just leaves me feeling that the pieces are still sort of broken. I know what I want is integrated channels that make it easy to talk, message or email with my contacts. With VoIP puts a new perspective on Talk for my mobile the associated messaging, presence, address books etc are just missing my expectations.
Gizmo has most of these pieces. It's on the Nokia. There are chat clients that run jabber etc. It has simple presence. Still my perception is of a cheap look we can do this demo rather than what was required. Gizmo could have done Skype for Mobile in execution with a SIP and Jabber platform. It still could. Truphone by contrast seems to have the technology more grounded. I'd like to see them connect it up to Gmail / jabber. I'd add more...
In the meantime I've been paying Skype for a SkypeIn line. That connection uses SIP. Skype could provide my VoIP in line without any problems. They have my SkypeOut too. They could even set my Presence to Talk/VM only if they still can't deliver a chat client.
To conclude VoIP in the hand is worth more than VoIP on the desktop. I can kiss that SkypeIn line goodbye. If we thought the migration to desktop VoIP has been so-so. I'd predict that the shift to mobile it will be even faster. And yes I know there are hardly any phones out there that currently support it. One it is compelling. Two the investment required for these new phones is less than laptops etc. They are more personal, more about status, and go everywhere.
One day soon I may even write about why I'm not interested in an iPhone.
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