Several months ago, I put together a list of options for reducing our long distance phone expenses. Since we get crappy cell service at home, we needed to consider other options. In the end, we decided to: (1) switch our landline to a cheaper long distance plan, and (2) add a Skype phone to the mix.
Considering our alternatives
As noted above, our first step was to change our regular long distance service from Sprint to Uni-Tel. This gives use long distance service for $0.025/minute for out-of-state calls and $0.042/minute for in-state calls. There’s not monthly fees or minimums, so that move was a no-brainer.
But could we do better? After listening to reader feedback, it seemed that our best option for saving even more was Skype.
What is Skype?
Simply stated, Skype is software that allows people to communicate over the internet. It supports instant messaging, voice chat, and video chat. On top of that, they offer services known as Skype Out and Skype In. The former lets you place calls over the Skype network to a real phone number, whereas the latter provides you with a phone number for receiving calls over the Skype network.
After poking around a bit, I was impressed with what I saw. Free computer-to-computer calling anywhere in the world, and both the Skype Out and Skype In services were quite cheap.
Settling on Skype
While many Skype users rely on a headset attached to their computer, we didn’t want to be tethered to a computer. Fortunately, there are a number of options out there when it comes to going wireless. For example, you can get a cordless phone that connects to your computer, a cordless phone that plugs straight into your router, or even a wifi-enabled portable phone.
Since we don’t have a desktop computer in the house, we didn’t want to be forced to plug the phone into a computer. Also, while the wifi-enabled phones are undeniably cool, they’ve received somewhat mixed reviews, so we shied away from them. In the end, we settled on the Philip VOIP841.
While this thing is astronomically expensive right now ($399 through 3rd party sellers on Amazon), it’s actually quite affordable when Amazon themselves have it in stock. In fact, we paid around $120 for ours, and I expect to earn that back in terms of “free” long distance in a relatively short period of time. If you’re willing to route the calls through you computer, you can get started for even less.
Our Skype experience thus far
All in all, we’ve been thrilled with our decision. We bought a year’s worth of Skype Out service back in June for around $20 (they were running a 33% off special at the time) and it’s been great. Voice quality is somewhere between that of a cell phone and a “real” landline. Honestly, if we didn’t need a landline for other reasons (e.g., 911 service, our alarm system, etc.) I’d be happy to add Skype In and drop our phone service altogether.
That being said, I have enjoyed having a second outgoing phone line in the house. We have pretty crappy cell coverage at our house, and we sometimes run into situations where more than one person needs the phone at that same time. Given that Skype Out can be used for both local and long distance calls, this is no longer an issue for us. If the regular phone is tied up, we just make a Skype Out call instead.