Virtual Landline - Alternative to Skype in 2018/19?
January 7, 2019 4:53 PM   Subscribe

In 2019 is there a reliable alternative to Skype for a softphone / VOIP landline-equivalent?

Via the paid SkypeIn and SkypeOut features, I currently use Skype as a personal landline-equivalent. Due to increasing usability issues with Skype, I'm ready to move onto something else, but am struggling to find a reliable alternative.

It appears the default choice is Google Voice, but I'd prefer not to use yet another Google Service. I've explored a few VOIP/softphone options, but have been concerned about their reliability and longevity.

In short, what I'm looking for: A Windows desktop-based VOIP/landline-equivalent, including the ability to make and receive calls to/from normal phones, and a voicemail feature. Ideally, not costing more than ~$100/year.

Also, Skype cannot receive SMS/text messages, but if there is an option that also allows this, I'd be very interested.

Does such a thing still exist? Thanks in advance.
posted by Ian.I.Am to Technology (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Don't think they do SMS, but MagicJack or something similar sounds like it's up your alley and in your price range for sure. They've been around for a pretty long time now, as these things go. I have been a user for some time and other family members have been too.
posted by some loser at 5:27 PM on January 7, 2019

I just use it as a POTS tho not sure they do windows client still
posted by some loser at 5:29 PM on January 7, 2019

Your price point is going to be the limiting factor. There are many VoIP providers that offer web- or app-based service (even if the service also comes with a box of some kind), but not many that are available for less than $100 per year. Interconnected VoIP (VoIP that can make and receive calls to any telephone number) is pretty regulated, so there are a lot of provider costs. Skype gets around this because it's offered as two different services - inbound and outbound - neither of which is considered "interconnected" and so not subject to many regulatory requirements. I believe MagicJack's service is structured in the same way - two services, inbound and outbound, and less regulated, and thus subject to fewer regulatory costs. It's cheaper but there is inherent risk that the business model will be challenged and costs will go up.

If you're set on that price point, I think MagicJack is one of the few options with some longevity. Keep in mind, though, that you should be able to port your phone number to any service (emphasis, though, on the *should* here). So you could try one service out and if it's not to your liking, switch to another.

If you want real reliability and longevity, you're probably going to need to pay more.
posted by devinemissk at 6:38 PM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’ve had an Ooma box for like 8 years, that I use with a plain landline phone. There’s also an app so you can answer it on your cell. They don’t have a “call thru computer headset” option, so you will need a phone of some sort (and they sell custom phones, or you can use a regular one). It’s $5 a month.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:52 PM on January 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

The softphone part of VOIP is easy – there are clients for pretty much every OS, many of them free.

As for a VOIP provider, I have done well with Callcentric, with no quality or service issues over the last few years. It was before my time as a client, but I think I read somewhere that they had some downtime related to hurricane Sandy in 2012, so they may not have quite the dependability of the biggest players. They have all the features you want, including SMS, but your cost will depend largely on the specific features you choose and how many calls you make.

I have two phone numbers, but I don't make or receive very many calls and it usually costs me about $6 or $7 a month for everything (including the mandatory $1.50 for 911 service), so well within your budget. If you're on the phone more than me you would spend more, though without knowing your usage I can't guess by how much; they do have unlimited plans, but they may be above your price point.

One of the advantages of VOIP is that you can set up rules for how calls are handled (though obviously the more complex the rules, the more cumbersome it is to set up and manage), like Google voice only even more so.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 7:52 PM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding odinsdream's recommendation of I've been using them as a home phone replacement for about 7 years. Depending on your region you can port numbers in/out so if you want to switch providers down the road it should be possible. My usage is fairly light and I spent less than $50USD last year with them.

Biggest downside - the initial setup was a little fiddly but once you're done it should just work.
posted by samhyland at 10:28 AM on January 8, 2019

I use callcentric (VoIP provider) with an Obi box, which lets you plug in a standard phone. 1.99 a month for a phone number, I have a prepaid plan so i pay (some tiny number) per minute for phone calls as I don't use it much, but callcentric have other plans to suit what you need.
edit - also voicemail, mine's free, they email an mp3 to you.
edit 2 - not in north america, so I don't pay 911 fee.
posted by defcom1 at 11:14 AM on January 8, 2019

Line2 comes with your number and a smart phone app -- as well as a Windows app. Super convenient.
posted by aeighty at 4:53 PM on January 8, 2019

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