My Little Telephony
April 17, 2006 3:26 PM   Subscribe

We've decided to get rid of our landline and go with a softphone. The question is: which to choose? We have cable internet. We'd need call in (our own phone number) and call out (ability to call landlines from our PC). For the most part, we'd be talking to people with landlines. I know we can't dial 911 with these-- we have an old cell phone (no more minutes left, but kept charged up) for this purpose. What's better? Skype? Gizmo? Yahoo? Or something else? We know that USB handsets are available with Skype-- what about the others? Also, how would this work with a home network? Are we restricted to calling from one PC or can we do it from any PC in the house?
posted by Shoeburyness to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
I personally love skype. just over 2 cents a minute to call out to anyone in America, and a good chunk of Europe. Call quality to landlines is comparable to cell phone (in my experience, a bit better) and having your own local number for call in is $30-40 per year. Any computer that has the software installed can call out, or answer incoming calls. In short- 'sgood.
posted by potch at 3:34 PM on April 17, 2006

911 should work from a landline phone even if you're not paying for service and that's better then using a old cellphone. I'd confirm with the phone company, though.
posted by sideshow at 4:06 PM on April 17, 2006

Be aware that, in some areas (such as Los Angeles, for instance) cell phone 911 calls tend to be deprioritized, as a disproportionate number of such calls come from groups of motorists all reporting the same accident.

I vividly remember witnessing a very large accident outside of my apartment several years ago, wherein an SUV with a family inside flipped their car over; my calls to 911 from my cell phone were not answered, while my wife's call from the home phone was answered right away.

Just something to think about. :)
posted by davejay at 4:52 PM on April 17, 2006

also - in northern california anyway, cellphone 911 is routed to the CHP, which then has to dispatch the call to a local PD. needless to say the delay may be fatal. you might want to check if the same is true for your area.

at least in my town, the PD has a non-911 emergency number that people are asked to program into their cellphones.

sideshow: at least with PacificBell/SBC/ATT/Whatever_they_are_called_now, no service == no dial tone, so no 911.
posted by joeblough at 5:33 PM on April 17, 2006

davejay writes "Be aware that, in some areas (such as Los Angeles, for instance) cell phone 911 calls tend to be deprioritized, as a disproportionate number of such calls come from groups of motorists all reporting the same accident."

It's more likely that a lot of cell 911 calls are accidental as most people don't lock the keyboards and the default action when mashing the keypad is to dial 911.

Any particular reason why you're not considering a VOIP line? You have highspeed internet and the cost for Vonage etc. is pretty decent. If you setup the 911 service properly (and dependent on internet connectivity -- which would be the same problem with Skype etc.) by setting your location info properly 911 calls are forwarded to your local emergency dispatch.
posted by purephase at 5:46 PM on April 17, 2006

Response by poster: We did have a VoIP line, of sorts. It came through Comcast and connected to a regular phone. It went out over the internet connection. We got that because we were sick to death of Qwest. However, it was $40 a month, and we really don't use the phone all that much. I looked at Vonage, and although it's only $14.99 for 500 minutes, we don't need anywhere near 500 minutes. Apart from relatives and my son's school, we pretty much don't want anyone to call us. We don't make very many calls, so we think we'd spend a lot less money this way. As far as the 911-- I know that cellphones, by law, have to be able to connect you to 911 even if you don't have service. I haven't been able to find the same thing for landlines. I'm in Denver, so I don't know if cellphone 911 calls are given less priority here, or not.
posted by Shoeburyness at 6:11 PM on April 17, 2006

Best answer: I would recommend Gizmo because it uses the open SIP technology. This means that you can call people with other SIP phones (like Vonage, EarthLink, etc) for free and vice versa. Yahoo and Skype will only work with their own users, or require you to pay to connect to the PSTN.

Furthermore, you have a much greater selection of telephone adapters if you should choose to get one. Also call recording is built into the application—I use it quite frequently.
posted by Monochrome at 7:51 PM on April 17, 2006

I haven't had a landline at my house for about two years, and I use Skype pretty much exclusively for long distance. The quality is quite good, and it's very cheap too, even to mobile phones overseas. My favorite feature is the forwarding one, where Skype will call my cell phone if the application isn't running or the computer isn't on.

I curse it when people call my Swedish Skype-in number without remembering about the cross-Atlantic time difference, but it's still kind of cool to have people reach me that way.
posted by gemmy at 8:42 PM on April 17, 2006

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