How can I avoid making an expensive phone call from my smartphone?
March 20, 2013 3:25 PM   Subscribe

I have a cellphone (iPhone on AT&T) that will cost $0.20 per minute (perhaps more) to make a call from the United States to Canada. I'm a cheap bastard and would like to avoid this charge whilst still using my cellphone to place the call. What options are available for me to do this more cheaply? Would I buy and use a calling card (and are there issues I need to worry about with this option), or are there apps that I can run on iOS through which I can call another country more cheaply than through AT&T?
posted by Blazecock Pileon to Shopping (20 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Bonus points if we can be contacted via a temporary phone number by the call recipient. For example, we call the third party in Canada, leave a message with a temporary number, and they can call us back on that number which is routed through to our cellphone.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:27 PM on March 20, 2013


google voice offers free calls to US and Canada. just get a local # in your area code and dial into there. not sure if there's an iphone app to streamline the process, though.
posted by raihan_ at 3:27 PM on March 20, 2013


Skype? I run Skype on my iPhone over Rogers 3G and I have a North America wide Skype out credit...not sure if you can do this over AT&T.

Also Facetime, if you recipient has another iPhone.
posted by salishsea at 3:31 PM on March 20, 2013


Doesn't the party on the other end need to run a Skype client? (It's been a while since I've used it.) I will be calling someone with a telephone number/landline at the other end. They do not have an iPhone.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:32 PM on March 20, 2013


Yeah Google Voice works for this, we get phone calls from my father-in-law in Kenya on occasion.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:38 PM on March 20, 2013


No, Skype can call regular phones (this is called SkypeOut). Here are the rates for calling phones in various countries, looks like 2.3c/minute for Canada.
posted by jacalata at 3:39 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


No...with a Skype out credit you can call phone numbers. Unlimited calls are $2.49 a month or 1.9 cents a minute. Not free, I grant you, but pretty cheap.
posted by salishsea at 3:40 PM on March 20, 2013


There is a Google Voice app for iPhone, but it will use your cell phone minutes. You would have to use VOiP, e.g. with the Talkatone app, and that can mean lousy call quality.
posted by payoto at 3:41 PM on March 20, 2013


There is a Google Voice app for iPhone, but it will use your cell phone minutes.

Yes, but not the international calling minutes. It will be like calling a US number. For example, I live in the US, and I use the Google Voice app on my iPhone to call India for 2 cents per minute. My cellphone carrier (for me, Sprint) does not add any additional charges because to them, it looks like I'm calling a US number for which I have unlimited minutes. You can also set up a Google Voice number for people to call you. You can set it to forward to your iphone. The other party does not need to have Google Voice or a smartphone {Skype can be set to work kind of similarly; you can check their rates}.
posted by bluefly at 3:49 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks, folks. We will probably try the Google Voice option with Talkatone, to see how that goes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:30 PM on March 20, 2013


There're also some dial-around services which are essentially phone cards w/o the card. My father and his wife use these to talk to their respective Canadian families all the time. The dial-in is a 1-800 number, and the call is billed like any other domestic landline call. I believe the rate is a bit less than 1c/min, but I'd have to ask to be sure. If that's something you're interested in, memail me and I'll get you the details (and post them here).
posted by Alterscape at 4:59 PM on March 20, 2013


Also, to be extra awkward you can initiate a double-dial-out from the Google Voice web site. You enter a number in the site, it dials your phone and that phone at the same time, your phone rings, you pick it up, you're connected. So that only requires using the GV web site and doesn't even require installing an app on your phone. Which may be better or worse depending on what you want.
posted by GuyZero at 5:22 PM on March 20, 2013


You enter a number in the site, it dials your phone and that phone at the same time, your phone rings, you pick it up, you're connected.

In that case, is the call handled through Google (as if I am calling from Google Voice) or is it handled through my phone (as if I am calling the number from my phone, where I am billed $0.20/minute)?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:31 PM on March 20, 2013


Both phones see the call as initiated from Google Voice. The actual callee sees your GV number in caller id, you see some random GV outbound phone number.
posted by GuyZero at 5:35 PM on March 20, 2013


I use jajah.com, not sure how it compares to Skype these days but it was cheaper than Skype when I signed up 5 years ago. Jajah allows you to call anywhere in the world using a local line (you do pay for international calls, but pennies on the dollar). You can launch it from your smartphone or a computer, let it know who you want to call. It then calls you first, then the other party, connected on a local line. The other party does not need to have any technology other than a regular phone.
posted by grassbottles at 7:01 PM on March 20, 2013


In that case, is the call handled through Google (as if I am calling from Google Voice) or is it handled through my phone (as if I am calling the number from my phone, where I am billed $0.20/minute)?

It is handled through Google Voice, which does free calls to Canada. You get billed only for your cell phone minutes as if you were calling a US number.

I tried Talkatone for a while to save on cell phone minutes and didn't like it. I rarely use my minutes anyway. I have the Google Voice app installed on my phone: I click on one of my international contacts' numbers or dial it from there, which calls my phone and then automatically connects the call. I wouldn't call the process awkward at all: instead of the iPhone phone app, you use the Google Voice app to initiate the call.

If I am on my computer, though, I just make the call through Gmail (which is completely free, and still shows my Google Voice number on my recipient's caller ID), mainly because it's more comfortable talking hands-free on the laptop.

The one thing you have to be aware of is that if your Canadian friend calls on your Google Voice number, they will be charged for calling the US just as they would if they called your AT&T number. Because Google Voice is not yet available in Canada, it's easier for you to save money calling them than the other way around. They can still use Gmail on their computers to call you for free, but I don't think there's a good option for them on the phone.

Google Voice is great for many of its other features: free SMS, voicemail transcriptions, missed call alerts delivered by e-mail, etc. The flipside, of course, is that we're giving Google even more of our data...
posted by redlines at 7:05 PM on March 20, 2013


Also, you can use Google Voice from a non-smartphone or a landline too: once you attach your phone number to your GV account, you can dial your GV number, which prompts you for the number you want to call, much like a calling card. A little more cumbersome.
posted by redlines at 7:10 PM on March 20, 2013


I got a web phone through anveo.com which can call land lines from my iPod touch when I'm online. Cost is .1 cent per minute plus $1/ month
Got an app, Bria, that is the dialler.
Can call canada to USA for this price, not the best sound but will do what you want if you have wifi access.
My brother has it mapped to cell phone so he gets cheaper calls when in wifi range but said it was very tricky to set up. I just use it for me and my son to have a "phone" via our iPods with no risk of big surprise fees.
posted by chapps at 12:04 AM on March 21, 2013


I was going to recommend you add the $3.99 option to your AT&T wireless account that makes international calls cheaper (AT&T World Connect), but I see from the rate table that it would give you $0.19 a minute to Canada, not a meaningful discount. That's weird, as it lets me call the UK for only $0.08 a minute, which is why I use it.
posted by w0mbat at 1:54 PM on March 21, 2013


I use Keku.com, rebtel.com as a calling card.
posted by bbyboi at 2:55 PM on April 15, 2013


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