One of the great disappointments of modern voice communication is the lousy audio quality we are forced to put up with. The majority of our calls sound worse than they did 20 years ago when most calls were still placed via landlines. Cell phone services compress the audio quality and free online services like Skype have wildly varying quality. While we’ve obviously chosen to trade greater portability for lower quality, it seems like we should be able to get both.
Vonage attempts to marry better sounding calls with the portability we’ve come to expect via their new Vonage Mobile app available free for iPhone and Android. I’m a longtime Vonage subscriber for their VoIP service, so it made sense for me to try them out on my Android phone too. While I haven’t placed many calls with Vonage Mobile, the ones I have made sound outstanding. Vonage optimizes their call audio using what they call “high-def” and while I find that term to be overused, I agree that their call audio sounds better than either my standard cell phone audio or the noisy calls I regularly make with Skype.
Another advantage I see to using Vonage on my smartphone instead of Skype is integration. Vonage Mobile integrates directly with your existing address book. When you give Vonage Mobile permission to connect with your address book, you can call anyone from within the application and see which of your contacts are also using Vonage Mobile. My home phone, which uses the Vonage service, also shows up as being a Vonage-to-Vonage call.
Calls to anyone else using Vonage Mobile on their phone are free from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world. You can also text message right inside Vonage Mobile with any other Vonage Mobile user. This is extremely handy if you travel internationally or if you want to connect with relatives who live outside your country of residence. At the moment calls to the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico from virtually any other country are also free, whether the person receiving your call has Vonage Mobile installed on their phone or not.
If you need to purchase credits to call outside of a free scenario, Vonage Mobile is integrated with either your iTunes or Android Market account, which makes for a much cleaner experience than having to maintain a separate account for apps like Skype. International calls placed using Vonage Mobile average 70% less than major mobile carriers and about 30% less than using Skype to call a landline or other phone.
Vonage Mobile works on both WiFi and 3G or 4G networks. With WiFi available free in so many locations, particularly if you live in a Starbucks-infested town like I do, it’s easy to imagine a world where cell phone plans get replaced by a service like Vonage Mobile. In the near term, it may simply be the service that brings people scattered across the globe a little closer together.