Stretch Your Cell Phone Plan With Vonage Mobile App (Review)

Vonage Mobile is an Android/iPhone app that now allows you to make free outgoing phone calls over WiFi/3G/4G to landline and mobile telephone numbers in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Limited time offer with no stated end date, up to 3,000 minutes per month. You do not need to be a Vonage VoIP customer to use the app.

In addition, you can make free calls to anyone else in the world with the app. Think Skype, but it uses your phone’s existing contact list. You must link the app to an existing cell phone number, and when it makes calls it will show that number in the caller ID. I’ve used the app and the voice quality is good over WiFi. Should even work with iPod Touch or iPad if you have a Bluetooth headset. Hat tip to GudSpellur of FW.

Here are some ways that I can imagine the app saving people money as opposed to paying for an “unlimited everything” plan.

Cell Phone Only, Limited Minutes
If you’ve ditched the landline and are a cell-phone-only household with limited minutes, you can use this app over WiFi to make outgoing calls that won’t count against minutes. The people you call will never know the difference. If you do get your friends to install the Vonage app, both sides can make app-to-app calls for free using your existing address book (still uses data plan or WiFi).

Basic Prepaid Plans
If you have one of these plans that offer basic prepaid service for under $10 a month, then you can use this plan to make more calls without using minutes when in range of WiFi (home, work, cafe, Starbucks, McDonald’s, etc).

Unlimited Data, Limited Minutes
If have a plan like the $25/$30 Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk plan that offers unlimited data but only 300 mintues a month, you can use this app with the unlimited data to make additional voice calls.

Miser Mode :)
If you don’t want to pay for any recurring phone charges, you could link this up with a free Google Voice number and just make outgoing calls on an iPod Touch or cheap inactive smartphone. Incoming callers would just have to leave a message on Google Voice, and you’d call them back.

Comments

  1. Jonathan, thank you again! If this really works, it will be perfectly timed. My fiancee is a teacher, and in June before her summer job started, she apparently used the extra time to talk on the phone and really racked up a LOT of overage minutes on our plan. Her summer job ends in two days, and I’m going to pitch this to her as a better solution for her “summer break phone-a-thon” before school starts. :)

  2. The last time I checked, the iPod Touch didn’t actually support the headset profile. It should work with Bluetooth headphones though. … Or you could turn the volume way down and hold the iPod up to your face like a backwards phone (mic is at the top right in back; speaker is at the bottom left) — kind of awkward, but it works reasonably well.

  3. You mentioned Virgin Mobile – I just love the idea of prepaid cellphone service! You can especially take advantage of VoIP talk services if you have an unlimited data plan. Great article!

  4. @Dan – I hope it works for you!

    @Tim – I’m not sure, I found the following links:

    http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1664

    http://gigaom.com/apple/quick-tip-use-a-bluetooth-headset-with-your-ipad-for-making-calls/

  5. The “Miser Mode” section above, which is actually the most sensible approach of all, fails to include the app Groove IP (at least on Android; don’t know about iPhone but I’m sure there’s something like it, or not). It enables full incoming and outgoing call functionality using Google Voice.

  6. You should mention that this will only work if the person you are trying to call has an app as well. If you just want to pick up your phone and call someone who does not have the app (99% of your contact list) this will not work, so I don’t see how it is useful. There are hundreds of other apps that will do the same out there but I am still looking for something that will not require the person you are calling to download anything, just to have their regular phone number.

  7. OK.. I take it back – I see that it is possible to call anyone for a “limited time”.

  8. @Jon – When I was looking to buy an iPod Touch in 2010, I remember looking it up and contacting a friend who works for Apple. I was pointed to a KB page where they said the handsfree profile wasn’t supported.

    So, now I was all ready to point to this article that spells out which profiles are supported:

    https://support.apple.com/kb/ht3647

    … but it turns out they must have quietly added HFP 1.5 to the iPod Touch 4 in the last year or so. The wayback machine shows that it used to be unchecked:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20110427030406/http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3647

    So I decided to see for myself. I powered on my old iPod Touch and was able to pair with my headset (when I had tried this previously it didn’t work). So, I tried dialing a number with Skype. It came out the speaker and didn’t give any other options. After updating the Skype app, I was able to switch the audio to the headset.

    Go figure. Too bad they didn’t have this support a few years ago.

    Tech details: iPod Touch 4th gen running iOS 5.0.1. Last Skype app update was around February 2012 until just now.

  9. While this is a bit Galaxy Nexus and Android specific, I used the information to have prepaid $30/month service supplemented with free VOIP.

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1646755

  10. @Paul – Sounds intriguing – Would you like to do a guest post on how others can achieve your setup with an Andriod phone with no phone plan at all? I don’t have an Android phone to try it myself.

    @Tim – Thanks for the follow-up info, I’m sure it will be helpful for others.

    @DaveD – Thanks for the link, ah the memories of reading that forum while trying to hack my old Sprint TP2 and wring every last bit out of it…

  11. Sorry if this is a Vonage newbie question… Just tried the app last night on a half hour call with a friend. It seemed that every five minutes or so we would not be able to hear each other for about five to ten seconds and then it would come back. At first I thought it might be that I was too far away from the wireless router, but it happened again when I was in the same room as the WiFi. Is this normal with Vonage and/or these similar apps? I never experience interruptions like this on normal iPhone calls at all.

  12. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for using our app!

    My name is Tzahi Efrati and I work with Vonage at the mobile development center. Feel free to contact me at tzahi.efrati@vonage.com with specifics issues you might have with our app.

    Tzahi

  13. The Vonage app works fine natively with both my current iPod Touch and iPad 2, no other hardware or tweaks required. They just behave like speakerphones.

    BTW, it’s worth experimenting with free apps MagicJack and Bobsled (T-mobile) for free calling, all have slightly different features, pros and cons. Bobsled, for example, supports calling to certain other countries, or promises to.

  14. Thanks for this. I used it to call mom in the U.S., for free, during my recent vacation in Europe.

  15. Vonage service is TERRIBLE. They charged me more money each month then promised when I opened account but now I even can’t discuss it with them (OR CLOSE!!<<<???) since the "supervisor" have always more "security questions" then were set up in the beginning. (And by the way, the low-rank first responder did "identify" me and my account but it is so PROTECTED – from who – from me! – that the conversation went nowhere with a "supervisor".) The only way to get rid of the sucker is put a claim with my bank, which I am going to!

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