If you've been putting off calling your aunt in the Dominican Republic or your Slovenian cousins because of the cost of calling from your mobile phone, a promotion from Vonage should pique your interest. The VoIP provider is giving away one free international phone call, up to 15 minutes, to anyone who downloads its new iPhone app, Time to Call. The app is also free.
What's especially appealing about the offer is you don't have to be a paying customer of Vonage (from $11.99 per month) to use the app or get the one free trial call. The free call expires one year after you download the app. Be sure to check that the country you're calling is on the list of 100 that are included in the deal (check below).
After your one free call, all calls are billed in 15-minute increments. Prices for the 15-minute blocks of international talk time range from 99 cents to $9.99, depending on which country you call, although calling most countries is less than $1.99. And typical of Vonage's slightly experimental nature, the Time to Call app doesn't charge you through pre-paid credits or an in-system account, the way other services such as Skype do. Instead, Vonage's app bills you directly through iTunes.
Microsoft will purchase the company from investor group Silver Lake, which—along with Index Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz Ventures, and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP)—acquired a majority stake in Skype in December 2009.
Microsoft said the deal will increase the accessibility of real-time video and voice communications across its products, while expanding Skype's reach. Skype will be available on Microsoft products like Xbox, Kinect, and Windows Phone, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live, and more.
Microsoft said it will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.
Google Voice, the wonderful service that can integrate all your calls to a single number, providing free services like voice mail, transcription and SMS messages, now supports number porting. This means that if you have a phone number which you want to keep, but you'd like to use it for Google Voice, now you can port it over. You may recall that the feature appeared in Google Voice last week, but was quickly pulled, with Google saying it was just a test. The video released by Google shows the process this takes, which seems pretty straight forward. This service has a one time cost of $20. Of course, Google Voice is still only available in the US, at least so far, and if you take advantage of the number porting, you may incur an ETF charge from your wireless provider.
Read More | Google Blog
Word on the street this morning was that Google had quietly made number porting available to all its Google Voice users, but the search giant confirmed Thursday that it is only conducting a test of the option with a few users.
"We're continually testing new features to enhance the user experience. For a limited amount of time, we're making the Google Voice number porting process available to users," Google said in a statement. "We don't have any additional details to share at this time, but plan to offer this feature to all users in the near future."
According to a story in China's major newspaper, People's Daily, it appears that the Chinese government has declared all VoIP solutions not provided by the government's own China Telecom and China Unicorn to be illegal. This would make Skype, the most popular VoIP service, illegal as well. So far, Skype denies that it has been banned, and users in China keep using the service, but if the government were to apply this new rule, this would be a major drawback for Chinese users, and westerners traveling to the country.
Read More | People's Daily
A week after the biggest Skype outage in recent memory (it lasted around 24 hours,) the company CIO posted an interesting rundown of how and why the failure occurred, giving a glimpse as to how Skype works behind the scenes. On Wednesday, December 22, a Skype server handling offline messaging became overloaded, resulting in delayed messages. Due to a bug, a version of Skype for Windows did not process those delayed messages correctly, which made them crash. This led to around 25% of the total Skype supernodes, the clients directing connections and logins in the Skype network, to crash. Since Skype clients have protections built in so that they do not overload the systems they run on, the large amount of crashed clients being restarted caused a massive load on the network, causing more supernodes to shut down to protect themselves. Almost the whole Skype network was thus brought to a halt. Check out the post to view more details, and how the Skype team brought everything back online.
Read More | Skype
Skype suffered a major outage yesterday where many users, possibly millions, were left without service. It started early in the morning, with people finding that they were unable to login, see their friends list, or place calls. At first, Skype tweeted that they were looking into the issue, but it soon became clear that the problem was affecting a large number of people, for several hours.
Skype put up a blog post in the afternoon to explain what the situation was, and how it was a problem affecting many users that caused the number of supernodes, those systems that are used by the Skype network to connect calls and process logins, to be taken offline. They added that they are working on creating "mega-supernodes" to take over that role and rectify the problem. According to their estimates, voice calls should be functioning within hours, but video calls and group features may be down longer. This may end up being one of the most serious issue that the company has had in the past several years.
Read More | Skype
When Google introduced phone call capabilities in Gmail back in August, they promised that calls to the US and Canada would be free until the end of the year. Now, Google posted on their blog that they will be extending that period of free calling for another year, throughout 2011. They are doing it in the spirit of the Holidays, and hoping it will help people stay in touch in 2011. In case you haven't tried it yet, you can access the feature by turning Google Chat on in your Gmail account, on the left side of the screen, and then click on the "Call Phone" feature. From our experience, calls are not always as high quality as something like Skype, but you certainly can't beat the price.
Read More | Google Blog
The folks at MyGlobalTalk are looking for some BlackBerry users to beta test their amazing 2.0 VOIP service pre-release. If you’ve got a BlackBerry, and want to try out MyGlobalTalk, head on over to their BlackBerry Beta 2.0 pre-release page and sign up. You’ll get a $20 calling credit for your troubles.
Read More | MyGlobalTalk BlackBerry Beta 2.0
Sci-fi fans who Skype/VoIP will love this new USB speakerphone that resembles a Star Trek communicator. Compatible with Windows XP/Vista and Tiger, it has a volume control and mute function with indicator and a separate USB sound controller with speakerphone and microphone. The phone also makes various comments such as “Transporter room, ready to beam up.” Aye, aye, Cap’n. We understand that the communicator will be at Dream Cheeky but has not materialized there as yet.
Read More | Everything USB
© Gear Live Inc. – User-posted content, unless source is quoted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Public Domain License. Gear Live graphics, logos, designs, page headers, button icons, videos, articles, blogs, forums, scripts and other service names are the trademarks of Gear Live Inc.