Saturday, May 15, 2021

Softphone

I started using Fongo on iOS in 2015 as a means of paying $20/mo instead of $90/mo for the same service. The idea is that you buy a smart-phone, but you only pay for a data-plan, so you don't have a phone number, can't send/receive voice calls, can't SMS. Then you get a phone app like Fongo (which provides a free local Canadian number for voice calls, but you have to pay for an SMS plan) and voila, you've got a fully featured phone. I'm using Google Fi now for data, which is cheap, international data, charged on a per-use rate.

But Fongo, being free, isn't great. It's reliable for outgoing calls, but sometimes incoming calls go to voicemail before ringing, and the SMS offered by Fongo isn't short code so it doesn't work for most second-factor (confirm your identity) messages (they just don't arrive).

I just surveyed the field again to see if there's a better Fongo alternative. Probably the best thing would be Google Voice, but it only works for personal Google Accounts in the US. They just opened it up on May 6th 2020 to business accounts in Canada, but that's $10/month. Most of the online comparisons are considering VOIP for business, and might not work in Canada. Grasshopper has supported Canadian numbers since 2010 but its pricing starts at $26/month which is a lot more expensive than free. From this comparison we can see that most of the free or cheap softphones are terrible. But Bria Solo is free and looks decent. And the pay-upgrade for individuals is just $3/mo. But it looks more like a number aggregator then a simple phone app, and the free version comes with an advertisement panel. (You can pay a one time fee to turn off the advertisement panel in Fongo). Here's another comparison which includes names line Vonage (which works in Canada), but again it's business centric. A quick search shows that the vonage softphone is $13/mo.

voip.ms (described on reddit as: cheap, reliable, complex to setup) would cost $0.85/month + $0.009/minute when replacing a Fongo number. Apps like Acrobits and Bria (listed here) are just the app. They require a phone number service behind them (such as voip.ms). And as of Aug 2020, voip.ms supports SMS at $0.0075 per message. But they "cannot guarantee that Short Code SMS Messages will work".

So I think Fongo is probably still the best option for a softphone in Canada today.

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