iCall – Makes calling easy on the iPod Touch
iCall has been around for about half a decade, and has helped over 3 million people make free calls over VoIP to landlines, cell phones, etc. While iCall’s computer software had been exclusive to Windows computers, they recently released a free iPod Touch and iPhone application that enables users to make VoIP calls over WiFi (no calling over 3G due to Apple restrictions). Sounds good, especially for iPod Touch users, but is it too good to be true? More after the break…
iCall itself is a VoIP service that allows free ad-supported calling to the US and Canada, with the option of paying for a “Total Access” ($9.99 USD a month) service that allows more flexibility and features within iCall.
Originally, the iCall service was exclusive to the PC. Now, however, the service is still the same, but is available through: the iCall app from the App Store, and also through your web browser (via a flash web widget). Unfortunately, the makers of iCall have not released a version of their software for Mac OS X, but they did say they are working to do so.
Registering for iCall
Upon opening iCall, you will be asked to pick one [of four] account types, one of which is totally free. The other three are “paid” memberships, requiring some service fees. The most notable, iCall’s”Total Access” allows you to unlock:
- iCall’s voicemail feature,
- discounted international calling rates,
- and more on your device.
After choosing which service you want and registering a username and password, you will be asked to place a “verification call” (a call to a US landline) with your mobile phone. This call has to be made to “prevent abuse of the iCall” (direct quote), and so the person you call with the iCall app will see your actual cell phone number in their caller-id.
Calling with the iCall App
To call someone, you are required to be connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot, even if your iPhone is utilizing 3G or Edge connection. iPod Touch users need a mic to talk, but can still call without it.
The iCall application on the iPod Touch and iPhone makes it easy to call whoever you need to call. Calling simply involves either:
- Dialing the desired telephone number on the on-screen dialpad
- Selecting a person from your contacts
which is really just like a regular cell phone.
The in-call screen has the ability to: mute, bring up the dialpad (for automated calls), search your contacts, and [of course] end the call. All of these features are useful, but there are some glitches with the in-call dialpad. For example, the dialpad would only register 1 number per call, meaning that typing in number extensions wouldn’t be possible.
One thing you may not like about iCall is the fact that you cannot call other iCall accounts. This means that you cannot use this application a full alternative to the very popular Skype service, which has an iPhone app that allows you to call other Skype users for free, and landlines and cellphones for cheap rates.
Use for iPhone
While this application may not seem useful for iPhone users at first, a feature that iPhone users may like is: the ability to switch 3G or Edge cellular calls over to WiFi. This feature may be great if cell service becomes minimal and strong WiFi “just happens” to be available. And while I was not able to try this feature (being an iPod Touch owner), I have heard that this feature works “alright”.
The call experience is okay with iCall. Even though the app has many good features, there are many problems that you may experience when using iCall, such as:
- Calls take at least ten seconds to start up (which is a bit slow)
- Call quality isn’t the best. On both sides of the call, the sound is muffled, but clear enough to comprehend most of what you hear.
- At times, the person you call may hear static on their side of the line. It can be so bad that the static over-shadows your voice, rendering the call pointless.
- You cant receive calls without paying for the total access account
Overall, iCall is a very good application, and despite its problems, its still worth getting. For one, its a free application that allows you to call people in the US and Canada for free. Many VoIP services (like Skype) required a paid service to call landlines and cell phones. Second, aside from the voice quality, most of the call problems rarely happen, and should not hinder your call experience that often. More importantly, this totally free application can allow you to use your iPod Touch as a phone, and in that sense, it does its job really well.
iCall is available on the iTunes App Store for free. [iTunes Store Link]