Vonage Releases Free Calling App – Do You Even Need Minutes Anymore?

Note: This post is sponsored by Vonage and I’m being paid to write it. Not in a “yo dog, you wanna trade lies for money?” way, but a “hey bro, we think our app is cool and we’d like you to write about it” way. All opinions are my own. Including my opinion on the peanut butter stuck to your upper lip.

I’ve often wished I could get a data-only cell phone plan. Seriously, with 4g coverage expanding and covering more of the nation, I find the need for actual cellular voice service to be waning. Why pay for minutes when I could just message people or use VoIP to talk to them?

According to some industry experts, the idea of data-only cell phone plans might not be so far away after all. You can already get a prepaid plan that gives you 5GB of data with only 100 minutes from Wal-Mart and T-Mobile; it would seem that this trend is going to continue until “minutes” are a thing of the past.

Of course, even if you’re like me and would rather use data instead of paying for minutes, you might still want to use something that looks and works like your standard smartphone. If you’re in that boat, you’re in luck; Vonage has just released a free calling app that uses VoIP but looks much like a standard phone app. I just got my hands on this app, so I’ll be reviewing it a little later; today, I just want to give you a bit of an overview so you can try it out if you like.

The Vonage Mobile app works a lot like the Skype app. You can call and text anyone else using the app for free, and calls to all other phones (both cell and landline) are super cheap. The main differences between this app and Skype seem to be:

  • Vonage Mobile lets you add calling credit directly through you iTunes or Google Checkout account, which should be a bit more streamlined than buying Skype credit
  • Vonage claims their app features high-definition call quality that should set a new standard for mobile VoIP calling. It’s supposed to be even better than regular phone calls.
  • Vonage Mobile doesn’t do video – it’s strictly focused on calling and texting
  • While Skype has you choose a username, Vonage Mobile uses your actual phone number
  • Vonage Mobile lets you look up international calling rates in-app
  • Vonage Mobile uses your phone’s existing contact lists (with your permission), so you don’t need to import any contacts

In addition, Vonage’s calling rates are supposed to be around 30% cheaper than Skype’s. The call quality is something I’m going to pay particular attention to as I test the app; I’d really like to see if it’s better than a regular phone call.

Here’s a quick video that goes over the app’s features:

As a launch bonus, Vonage has made all calls to any phone in the U.S., Canada, or Puerto Rico totally free for up to 3000 minutes a month. This won’t last forever, but it’s a pretty sweet deal.

I think this app could be pretty beneficial to students when coupled with a super cheap, data-enabled phone plan. I’d love to pay $30 a month for a data package and just use this for all my calls. If you have an iPhone or Android phone, you can check out the Vonage Mobile app and judge its value for yourself. As I mentioned above, I’ll be posting my thoughts on the app soon!

Thomas Frank is the geek behind College Info Geek. After paying off $14K in student loans before graduating, landing jobs and internships, starting a successful business, and travelling the globe, he's now on a mission to help you build a remarkable college experience as well. Get the Newsletter | Twitter | Facebook

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14 Comments:
  1. Love the app. Great sound quality. Just one thing…it never makes a noise when someone is calling-like, no ring. I’ve checked all the obvious settings and such. Am I missing something?
    Thanks!

  2. I just downloaded the app on my android and can’t seem to get the text messaging to work. Any thoughts on how to get that going

  3. Installed app and can make calls within the US but am unable to add money thru iTunes. Get message stating cannot connect to iTunes. What now?

  4. Seems like the vonage app uses cell phone minutes, which does not make it a free calling app. It is free only on ipod touch/ipad.

    • That’s incorrect. It’s free on every platform you can download it for – as long as you’re calling other Vonage users or taking advantage of the free US calling going on now (or at least when this was written). For calling non-Vonage phones, you buy credit – no matter if you’re on an iPhone or an iPod Touch.

  5. I have this app, and it is good for making calls. I also have the TMobile $30 plan with 5 gigs of data / unlimited text / 100 minutes.

    Coupe of things that could be better:
    – An option to forward all my calls through the app. That way I can make phone calls from the phone screen without having to open up the app and then make the calls. It is currently a bit cumbersome.

    – A way to receive calls from non-vonage app users would be nice. Right now, if someone calls me it uses up the few minutes that I have. I have to ask them to hang up so that I can call them back using the app. Furthermore, if I use up the 100 minutes on my plan, no one can call my phone.

    • Good points, Chris. Those are both things I’d also like to see in an app like this. However, I think at present they’re kind of impractical, at least on an iPhone. I don’t think Apple lets apps tamper with default programs like Phone or Messaging. As a result, forwarding calls to an app wouldn’t be possible.

      Receiving with the app is another thing that isn’t really possible right now because of that restriction; since you use your existing phone number, your phone will always default to using the regular phone app.

      However, these are both problems that could possibly be taken care of by the jailbreaking community. One can hope ;)

      • Hmm, I’m not too sure about Apple since I’m using it on Android. I wish I could say that I thought of those features, but those are actually features that do work on the Google Voice app. The only problem is (and I found this out the hard way), that the carriers still charge minutes when making calls through Google Voice. My initial scheme with the 100 minutes / unlimited data / unlimited text plan, was to use Google Voice in order to get my phone calls charged as data instead of minutes. That is something that this app does…but it doesn’t have the flexibility of Google Voice.

        Were you commissioned by Vonage to write this review? Perhaps you could put in a recommendation to them? They could then hopefully break into the market share of both Google and Microsoft, both of which have “skype-type” apps with some drawbacks.

      • Yep, I was commissioned. I think this is something that would work for Android, but it’s not something they could officially work into the iPhone app for the reasons I mentioned (unfortunately). I can ask them about the Android app.

  6. The first thing I thought of when I tried this Vonage Mobile app was the TMobile offer at $30 for 100 minutes and 5GB of data. I’d pay some $40 less/month to AT&T than I already do.

    Now I just need to figure out how to get TMobile working on my AT&T phone. Don’t care about the ETF because the savings over time will more than make up for it. Plus, I won’t get throttled at 2GB like AT&T is now sending me text msgs threatening to do so… hmmmm….

    • I’m definitely not knowledgeable on this subject, so correct me if I’m wrong – but can’t you just unlock your current phone? This website might help… http://www.mobileunlockguide.com/

      That Wal-Mart/T-Mobile plan was the first thing I thought of as well when Vonage contacted me about this app. For students that use a lot of minutes, I can’t really think of a cheaper option at this point.

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