The VoIP Cell Phone Explained

VoIP Cell Phone is yet another one of those crazy misproperly used names that somehow got mixed up in the mainstream language. I don't want to get too technical at this point of what it exactly is. So instead of trying to say what it is or what it isn't or how it could possibly be, I'll just ask this instead...

What the heck is VoIP anyway?

It is short for Voice Over IP or Voice Over Internet Protocol. The easy way to remember is what it stands for Voice Over Internet or talking over the Internet. Hence why you can't technically have a VoIP Cell Phone. VoIP is a technology that allows you to make calls over a Broadband Internet Connection (high speed) such as DSL or cable modem (not dial up). If you hear your computer click with a dial tone and all the static before it connects to the internet it is not going to work for you ok? Skype uses VoIP. You know put on the headset and talk "through the computer" to your friend in another country for free :) I imagine the term VoIP Cell Phone came about because someone thought that VoIP somehow worked through the cellular network.

A lot of people ask me about VoIP Cell Phones and everything in between. In the cellular and wireless industry they are constantly trying to make things 'more' confusing by throwing the terms out there without the proper supporting explanation. There are so many ways people have described their version of VoIP Cell Phones to me, from the Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) Cell Phone similar to the recently introduced BlackBerry 8820, the USB VoIP thumb drive/stick-a-ma-jig where you can make calls through your computer and most recently (but correctly identified), the UK's 3 Skpe Wireless Phone (I know, don't ask, lol). No worries, we'll cover the VoIP Cell Phone, the Wi-Fi Phone and Mobile VoIP just in case you don't know what 'VoIP Cell Phone' solution you were looking for, lol.

A Little Wi-Fi Background

First off, Wi-Fi is that 'special' technology that allows you to use certain kinds of hardware wirelessly in a short range but longer than Bluetooth, the other, other technology. Wi Fi usually spans a few hundred feet more or less. So think of wi (like why for wirelessly to remember it. It's the technology integrated into a laptop computer that allows you to go to the Starbucks and log on the Internet without 'plugging in' to anything via your ethernet cable. For those of you who don't know what that is it looks like a thick phone cord that allows you to plug your laptop a data port in the wall to get on the internet. Ok, ok, I am getting back on topic, the Hotspot is just a brand for the name of the place that is allowing you to log on the internet remotely via the Wi-Fi service, "HOT Spot" get it? LOL. But say you walk out of the Starbucks, no more Wi-Fi (that's what I mean by short range). Anyway, you DO NOT need a wireless laptop card to be able to use Wi-Fi if you have wireless integrated in your laptop. To log on to a hotspot you just turn on your computer, click on Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer or whatever your preferred browser is, same as if you were logging onto the Internet at your desk computer and then a window pops up and says, 'hey do you want in?' So you say 'yeah' and they say 'ok, give me $10 and you can get online'. Or if you subscribe to the T-Mobile Hotspot Service (or whomever, Sprint Boingo Wireless) then you can just get in with your log in and password.

Ok so this technology is integrated into the cell phone (such as the BlackBerry 8820 and also the iphone but not to be confused with that darn VoIP cell phone, lol). Before I begin naming all the wi-fi cellular phones, let me give credit where credit is due. The technology is introduced today like it is something new and all the latest and greatest, but truth be told 5 years ago (I know bc that is how long I have been a loyal CLYW stockholder, lol) a little company based out of Miami Lakes, Florida called Calypso Wireless introduced the first mobile phone that could work seamlessly between a cellular and a wi-fi network (so hopefully everybody got all their wi-fi cellular patents on the straight and narrow because this could mean some lawsuits down the road). Politics and carrier bureacracy is essentially why we are seeing it 5 years later, go figure. Anyway, say you are at your house in the suburbs or in your cubicle that is not near the window and your cell phone coverage sucks or you don't get it at all. And you have a phone with Wi-Fi and you have a Wi-Fi router in your house/office. Then essentially that means you can log onto the Wi-Fi network from your phone and make a phone call or use the internet or whatever. But check this out, it is not using the same network as your cell phone so therefore it's not using cell phone minutes, heeeeeyyyy, cool huh? So you pay something nominal like $10 extra on your plan and you can talk as much as you want.

So anyway, that is option 1. of what you might have thought of as a VoIP cell phone- The Blackberry 8820 see below (image Courtesy of RIM)

Were You Thinking of 'This' As a VoIP Cell Phone?

OR perhaps you were thinking of 'this' as a VoIP cell phone?

Yes, it's a 'phone', and it works with VoIP, but it's not a VoIP Cell Phone. Genius huh? It actually doesn't work on a cell phone network...that's the catch. Now you are getting it huh? ;-)

Well this is a good time to probably explain to you where the concept of VoIP Cell phone came from as well. They have a phone by Skype and the UK Cell Phone Company 3. When you make a call it starts via the cellular phone network and techincally it terminates in the background and picks up againn through the VoIP network. So they call it a VoIP cell phone but what it truly is, is a VoIP service working over a cell phone network overlay.

Anyway, I wonder if the Vonage VoIP stick is the world's smallest phone ;-). No, you can't really talk on a VoIP USB Phne in a traditional a cell phone, well actually you can because it does have a built in jack for a 2.5mm earpiece/headphones (which actually comes packaged with the VoIP Phone. So in a sense you can pretend you are talking on your cell phone, but you won't be able to walk far because you will still be 'attached' to your computer.

You are probably looking at that thing saying to yourself, it looks like a 'portable thumb drive' well low and behold technically that's what a VoIP 'USB' Phone is. This specific VoIP phone is actually called the 'Vphone' from Vonage. I have a Babble Stick from the U.K. which is also a VoIP phone (different brand, same concept). I love it when I travel abroad) because it helps me save on international cell roaming rates which are horrific. Needless to say all the same stuff with all different brands, can't you see how all this voip cell phone technical mumbo jumbo can easily get confusing? (Vphone image courtesy of Gizmodo -love that site :))

Essentially a VoIP USB stick phone thing-a-ma-jig has software pre-loaded into the stick itself and you plug it directly into your computer USB port and log on to the internet like you usually do when you get on line to browse the web. Your computer will recognize the new hardware and basically it loads a little program in like a minute (no technical expertise or install necessary) that allows you to make calls through the internet. It works very much like Skype. I usually promote services like these to my business customers who are thinking of VoIP:

1. Work from home but have crappy cell phone coverage or my all time favorite no cell phone coverage

2. Travel internationally or are mobile road warriors and don't want to use their cell phone 24x7 because the rates on the USB VoIP Phone are a lot cheaper. 1 to 3 cents a minutes for international vs. .99/min on the cell phone.

3. They want one number to use and need a fax while they are traveling. All inbound faxes on VoIP are f.ree, sweet

The concept is they can use their cell phone to receive calls but when they are on their laptops hanging at the hotel, what have you, they can make calls from their VoIP phone stick. Remember, it's VoIP not cellular and it doesn't work through the cell phone network, it works through the internet.

Other things to know about the VoIP USB Phone

1. It is a lot like a cell phone. For one you have to commit to a contract term, so check with the VoIP provider before you sign up. There are a number of VoIP providers all with different terms and rates.

2. You usually suscribe to a monthly plan, also similar to a cell phone and you get voice mail, caller id and all the rest of it. The the service on the Vonage VoIP Phone starts at $15/mo which includes 500 minutes (local and long distance) with overrage rates somewhere around 4 cents a minute.

3. The VoIP phone only works on PC's, sorry Mac Lovers! I honestly don't know why all the application and techie gadget companies are such Mac Haters.

4. The VoIP phone is also like a cell phone in that the quality of your calls is based on the signal strength and speed of your internet. So if your internet connection is always cutting out because you are too far from the central hub, lol, makes me think of that Comcast commercial, your voice is going to be skipping and sounding like huh-el-o, h-owwwwww are u do---n. So you might want to try to keep the calls short and sweet. Actually on your cell phone, the same holds true.

Note: The good news is if you do have poor coverage at your home/home office you can buy one of those little routers (you know the box you attach to your computer) to get the super fast speed on the internet. So that should help you out a bit. And if have a laptop with wireless, when you are traveling you can use your wireless to get on a hotspot (Wi-Fi) at a Starbucks (yes, even abroad, I have used mine in Finland, Austria and the Czech Republic), in the states they also have hotspots at Fed Ex Kinkos and most 'chain' hotels.

Listing of Hot Spot Locations

You don't have to have T-Mobile Service to get it. They can also charge per day to use it via Day Pass or Pay As You Go if you need to get on just a 'few minutes' (that is so not going to happen, lol).

Or Perhaps You Were You Thinking of This Software to make f.ree Calls via VoIP From Your Cell Phone?

Mobile VoIP is almost like a faux VoIP Cell Phone. It allows you to download VoIP software on your cell phone and call other cell phones at no charge who are also using the VoIP cell phone software. There are several companies who offer it but two such VoIP Cell Phone like software providers are Truphone and JaJah.

Additional VoIP Resources

The Skype VoIP 'Cell' Phone by 3

Here are two quickies about how to make a VOIP call from a Cell Phone:

Quickie Reason #1

Quickie Reason #2

Want to learn more about VoIP? Cell Phone Sold Separately ;-) ok, lol?

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