Tag Archives | voip

Expat Tech: Skype Now Supports Multi-Tasking

We previously reported at the end of May on Skype adding support for 3G calling to their iPhone app and are now happy to report that as of yesterday, Skype now also supports multi-tasking on Apple’s new iOS 4 for the iPhone 4 and 3GS.

What this means is that you can now run Skype in the background on your iPhone, and receive calls as well as place them.  Before iOS 4, the only way to receive calls would have been to have the Skype application running in the foreground which was not very practical.  Now, just run Skype in the background and people in the States can ring your Argentine cell phone just by placing a local call. And all you need is a cheap 3G connection (Movistar charges $9 pesos for 2GB to use over 2 days).

You’ll still need to pay for a SkypeIn number if you want people on non-Skype phone lines to reach you, but luckily this service is only $18 for three months or $60 for a year. Plus, they have local numbers available in 25 different countries.

In other good news, Skype also dropped plans to charge extra for 3G calling.  Both Wifi and 3G calls are free to Skype numbers, though you’ll need Skype credit to make outbound calls to non-Skype numbers, but that is relatively inexpensive as well.

Now all we need is the jailbreak for iOS 4 on the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, which is supposed to be coming in the next few days! (I installed iOS 4.0 on my iPhone 3G and it slowed to a crawl.  I had to downgrade to 3.1.3 to make my phone usable again, so I’d advise against doing that.)

So, with a jailbroken and unlocked iPhone 3GS, iOS 4.0.1, Movistar 3G service and Skype, I should have a cheap calling solution anywhere in Buenos Aires.


Vonage Reduces Cost to Call Argentine Cell Phones by 65%

I’ve long been a customer and fan of Vonage, so it was especially nice to get an email from them today announcing a number of rate decreases.  While Vonage offers free calls to most foreign landline phones, they often charge for calling mobile numbers.

With today’s announcement, they have reduced the per-minute rate from U$S 0.17 to U$S 0.06 for calls to Argentine cell phones. (They have also reduced the rate for mobile calls to Colombia, Peru, Dominican Republic and Venezuela.)   This now means that calls to Argentine mobile phones from my Vonage line are significantly cheaper than calling with my local Movistar pre-paid cell phone. And yes, that is a bit crazy.

What makes this especially attractive is that you can now call forward your US Vonage number to your Argentine cell phone and receive calls from the States when you are not at home for only $0.06 per minute. This is great for people who conduct business with the States and need to be available when they are out.

Vonage also offers a mobile app for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry that could prove to be the cheapest way to make calls while overseas. For $24.99/month you get unlimited calling plus the new low rates. Skype currently charges $0.021/minute for landlines and $0.204/minute for mobile phones.

Way to go Vonage! It’s always nice to see prices actually decrease every once in awhile.


Expat Tech: Google Voice Coming Soon

Google VoiceMore interesting news from Google – they have just announced Google Voice, a new service that will give you a new US phone number from Google with a slew of services to go along with it.  The basic premise of Google Voice is that you will have one number for all your phones, for life.  When this number is called, it can ring all of the phones that you have (home, work, cell) and also handle voice mail.  As these numbers change, your Google Voice number will remain the same.

Now, most expats are already using voice-over-ip (VOIP) services like Vonage or Skype, so why would you need this service?  While it’s true that this is not a VOIP service (yet) and you will still need an existing phone to place and receive calls, Google is offering a tremendous number of services that most other VOIP don’t provide – and they’re doing it for free.  Some of these services include:

  • Call US numbers for free and cheap international calling (might be cheaper than using another VOIP service)
  • Voicemail transcripts – receive your voicemail as email or text messages automatically converted from voice to text (Vonage charges $.25 per message for this)
  • Call screening – announce and screen callers
  • Listen in – listen before taking a call
  • Block calls
  • Taking calls – answer on any of your phones (No word on whether it will support international numbers or what the cost would be.)
  • Phone routing – phones ring based on who calls
  • Forwarding phones – add phones and decide which ring
  • Listen to voicemail – check online or from your phone
  • Notifications – receive voicemails via email or SMS
  • Personalize greetings – vary greetings by caller
  • Conference calling
  • Call record – record calls and store them online
  • Call switch – switch phones during a call
  • SMS – send, receive, and store SMS
  • And more… (Visit the Google Voice features page for the rest and to view short videos on these services)

The free SMS services are especially interesting since many expats are unable to send and receive US-based text messages, so this would be an easy way to enable that.  And, SMS text messages are becoming more and more critical as many US-based services use them as an additional measure of security for authenticating accounts (PayPal, Craigslist, etc.) or for approving bank transactions (I had this at Bank of America but had to turn it off when I moved to Argentina).

The downsides to Google Voice?

  • You will need to pick a new number from Google as there is not currently any way to transfer your existing number to them. This means changing your old number everywhere.
  • You still need a US based number for the call forwarding to work. At this time, the service is US only.  Though you could sign up just to get a free number with voicemail, SMS, etc. and not have the forwarding or calling features.
  • The Google Voice service is not yet available but will be rolling out over the next few weeks.  You can sign up to be notified when it launches.
  • There is no fax support, so it may not replace all of your numbers yet.

All things considered, it looks like an amazing service and I’ve already signed up for the wait list.  You can read more abotu Google Voice at:

–  Google Voice: A push to rewire your phone service [C|Net]
GrandCentral To (Finally) Launch As Google Voice. It’s Very, Very Good. [TechCrunch]