Phone with webtone

Here’s a solution I didn’t know I needed until recently.

I’ve got a pay-as-you -go cell phone. In the past, when I’ve used it to call Canada, the fee came off the card, and it was essentially as if it cost double or triple minutes. But then I changed to a monthly plan, with more minutes than I thought I would ever use in a month. And I called Canada, a good, long family call. I went online to check how many minutes it had used, and was shocked to find it hadn’t used any of my monthly minutes — Canada was out of the system, so they charged me separately. That one phone call cost two months of my economical plan.

So I looked for an alternative. Preferably free. And I found it.

I’ve had a free Google Voice number for awhile. It’s an addition onto Google Chat. Google chat itself lets you make calls to regular phones. Google Voice gives you a number which people can call. If you don’t happen to have Google Chat/Voice up, it will go to voicemail that you get as an email. Or you can forward it to another phone. Useful, but still limited in that you have to be at your computer.

[Enter an app, available for iOs or Android, called Talkatone. It interfaces with Google Chat, and allows your iPod touch or iPad to act like a cell phone, as long as you are in a wifi zone. I presume it will do the same with any Android tablet.] Google Voice now interacts with Google Hangouts; you can make or receive calls using the Google Hangouts app, even on a tablet or cell phone. .
It’s been working so well that I now have my home phone forwarded to my Google Voice number. If I am in a wifi zone, either at home or at a friends house or a coffeehouse, my iPod rings and I answer. If I’m not in a wifi zone, it goes to voicemail. From the caller’s perspective, this is no different from what it was like to call my home phone anyway, except that since gVoice sends me a notification when I get a voicemail, so I’m more likely to get your message and return your call. (My cell phone’s behavior is unchanged).

I’ve heard a number of people complain, to a greater or lesser extent, about cell phone coverage and/or costs. With this setup, I can see how it might even be possible to give up both a landline AND a cell phone, yet still have a working phone. It makes wifi, not phone service, the essential component.

Ten years ago, when I worked at Sun Microsystems, “webtone” was a big buzzword — the idea that an internet connection could be ubiquitous and easily accessible; you could just turn on a device and it would just be there — like plugging in a phone and getting a dial tone. We tend to call it “the cloud” these days, but the concept is the same. Pity Sun was more than a decade ahead of the times.

Meanwhile, I hope the techno-geeks among us might simply be delighted, as I am, that it works.

This article shows how to set it up.

Fwd: Make Free Phone Calls Over Wi-Fi/Data Using Talkatone [Android & iOS]


One thought on “Phone with webtone

  1. Update: As of May 15, Google Voice no longer works with Talkatone. Talkatone offers their own phone number, which operates a lot like having a Google Voice number, except you have a limited number of outgoing phone calls before you have to pay.
    Google voice, meanwhile, has been incorporated into Google Hangouts. This adds several new features – video chat and conference calling – but the process of answering the phone using an ipod or ipad is hit-and-miss. I can get it to ring, but the call has usually gone to voice mail before I can actually get the app to answer.
    It is possible that my settings are incorrect, since I set it up for Talkatone.

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