Shopping for a new phone service can be a daunting task for both businesses and consumers as there are many different options available these days, using different technologies with different price points and features. You can end up saving a lot of money if you choose wisely.
The phone service you need really depends on your specific requirements and whether it is for your home or your business. In this article we document the main options that you have at your disposal for 2014. Hopefully you can use this to narrow down all of the options and focus on a specific area.
Option 1: Legacy Copper Land-line.
Do you still have your old copper analog land-line service? You know, the one that uses the copper wires that come into your home or business and cost upwards of $50 per month per line.
This is probably the worst possible option and if you still have this service, consider getting rid of it as you could save a lot of money while benefiting from some great features. This is not worthy of any further discussion.
Option 2: Cell Phone
If you do not need a home or business phone service and have decent cell coverage where you live or work, then this may be a good option for you. Cellular costs are coming down and it seems like everyone has a smartphone these days, particularly of the iPhone or Android variety.
You can actually save even more money and use your smartphone as a hotspot for your house or small business and remove the need for an Internet service. This of course assumes you have good coverage and the latest technology such as the LTE 4G network. The hotspot is essentially a Cellular to WiFi bridge and acts as a WiFi access point so laptops and computers can get fast Internet speeds through your phone. However, if you have heavy demands for Internet, such as video streaming then this will likely result in a poor experience for you, in all honesty.
This subject is expanded on further in some articles we wrote. For those wanting a 4G smartphone, check out little known ways to save with a smartphone. Looking for a low cost home service and a low cost cell phone - check our article on budget phone service options. Also let's not forget businesses, there are some great options - let employees bring their own cellular device to work and receive business phone calls. Saves your business a lot of money and employees have the convenience of one cell phone for all their personal and business needs.
Option 3: Mobile VoIP (also known as mVoIP)
For Mobile VoIP, a cell phone is required, though you can also get it using WiFi, in other words, the cellular part is for when no WiFi is available. When using WiFi, mVoIP is usually free but the cellular side uses up your data bandwidth.
There are many mVoIP apps available for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices with the most popular ones offering very low cost International calling. That is the true benefit of mobile VoIP, it is the International calls. Most cellular plans already have unlimited minutes nationwide but when you use the cellular provider for International calls it will cost you a small fortune. Mobile VoIP is different, the calls use your data plan and go across the Internet so the fees and taxes are much lower. The mVoIP provider will then handle the call as a local number at the destination of the call hence the reason calls are so cheap.
For residential customers, apps are available from the likes of Skype and Rebtel. Simply install the app on your smartphone and start making low cost calls. You can learn more in our Mobile VoIP section.
For businesses, take advantage of hosted VoIP phone service and use the providers apps to take the phone service on the road with you. This turns your smartphone into an extension of your office and gives you an extensive set of features. You can learn more about this in our Business mobile calling apps guide.
Option 4: VoIP (also called Internet Phone and Cloud Phone Service)
VoIP is, in our opinion, without a doubt the best option for both businesses and home phone users. This service is also often referred to as Internet phone service and Cloud phone service. There are a few reasons for this, VoIP is a phone service that uses the Internet to route your calls. The service providers essentially reside in the cloud in that all your calls go through their data centers as they handle all of the routing. You can learn more about the underlying technology in our Guide to VoIP.
The table below highlights some of the benefits that this service has over a traditional landline type phone service such as that stated in Option 1.
|Feature||VoIP (Internet/Cloud)||Landline Service|
|Easy Setup & Installation|
|Unlimited Nationwide Calling Included|
|Cheap or Included International Calling|
|Low monthly costs per phone number|
|Lots of Calling Features included (e.g. caller-id)|
|Bypasses Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN)|
|Both portable and flexible|
|Business service can often integrate with office tools|
|Outstanding digital voice quality|
In terms of pricing, home phone service often starts as low as $5.99/month for unlimited calling. This will save most homes at least $500 per year over a landline phone service. Also no extra costs for Caller ID and other features such as voicemail to email, call forwarding and fax are free of charge. Most VoIP plans have at least 45+ features included in the monthly price. Consult our residential VoIP section for more information, such as guides, comparisons and user reviews.
For businesses, phone service tends to start at around $25/month but this varies based on how many lines you require and if you need toll-free numbers or additional extensions. The feature set is even more extensive than the residential side and includes additional features such as an auto-attendant, which make your business appear larger than it may actually be. It will also allow hunt groups, which are useful for handling calls to departments in your business, and plugins to enhance productivity by integrating your phone service with your business tools such as email clients, CRMs and the likes. Consult our business VoIP for articles, reviews and extensive comparison tools.
Hopefully this article has helped show your options when it comes to phone service. Yes, we are perhaps a little biased when it comes to VoIP, but we feel the savings and features speak for themselves. However, you may find that if your calling needs are small then a cell plan may suffice, and then use a mVoIP app should you require lower cost International calling.