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Free Web Calls Use apps to make free international calls

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It's possible to call ANYWHERE in the world free. If you've a steady broadband connection, free internet phone calls (VoIP) can slash the cost of calling abroad.

It sounds complicated, but making VoIP calls is easy, especially if you've a smartphone. This guide includes apps that let you call for nowt, how to make free calls from your computer, and the best way to call friends who don't use VoIP.

What is VoIP?

If you and the person you're calling have the internet, you can make free internet calls (barring any web access costs), no matter where in the world you both are. It's geekily called "VoIP", short for "voice over internet protocol".

You may not have heard of it, but you've probably used internet telephony without even realising it. It's increasingly used as the background technology for normal calls. It's usually free to make calls to people who use the same service.

Using mobile web (3G or 4G) to make VoIP calls? Be warned, this can eat heavily into your mobile data allowance. Use free wi-fi wherever possible.

Never automatically use VoIP to make a phone call

While it's free when calling someone else using the same VoIP provider, many are tempted by VoIP's promise of cheap calls to real phone numbers abroad. However:

VoIP is only free for calling people who also use VoIP.
If you want to call someone directly, other ways usually beat it.

For cheaper calls to a landline or mobile, use the MSE CallChecker.

How does VoIP work?

With traditional phone calls, there's a constantly open pipeline with information streaming both ways, like this:

Make a free internet call using VoIP and your voice is split into tiny packets of data, using high-speed technology and computer processing power.

These are then bulleted along the line and decompressed at the other end. Other people's conversations are also bulleted along the line at the same time, so one line carries much more information, making it cheaper to operate.

VoIP pros and cons

How to make free internet calls

There are different ways to make VoIP calls. Each requires an internet connection, though depending on the service, you make calls either via a computer, your mobile or using your landline.

The best route for you depends on which service your friends/family use, because using the same as them will get you free calls. These are our top picks for different combinations.

  • Phone-to-phone

    Got a smartphone with web access? You can download these free apps for free calls (friend must use the same service):
    Skype
    FaceTime (iPhone only)
    Viber

  • Computer-to computer

    Use your home broadband connection to make free calls (friend must use the same service) via :
    Skype
    Rebtel
    Viber

  • Computer-to-phone

    Need to call someone who doesn't have a PC or smartphone? Use (friend doesn't have to use VoIP):
    Skype
    Localphone
    Vyke

Phone-to-phone calls Call landlines and mobiles for free via mobile web or wi-fi

The beauty of phone-to-phone VoIP calls is you can call anyone, anywhere, without being tied to a PC. There are several ways to call phone-to-phone, but they're not always free:

Via free smartphone apps. If you've a smartphone and call with your mobile, download apps such as Skype, Viber or FaceTime. These let you make free voice calls to people who use the same service. Depending on the phone, you could also make video calls.

Some apps let you call landlines and mobiles worldwide, though they usually charge for this. Rates can be cheap, but are usually beaten using specialist no-frills providers. Use the MSE CallChecker to find the cheapest rate for the country you want to call.

Via your landline. You could also use your landline to make VoIP calls, though this tends to be pricey, and you'll need a special £20+ adapter that plugs into your home phone and broadband, which re-routes the calls.

If you regularly call one country, it could be worth considering a monthly package with a provider such as Vonage.

To make phone-to-phone calls, our top picks are:

Computer-to-computer and tablet calls Free calls to PCs, Macs and tablets using your computer

Never, ever pay for computer-to-computer VoIP calls. You can always call for free if you and the person you're calling both use the same software.

The quality of computer-to-computer VoIP calls is often better than computer-to-phone calls. Though if your internet connection is struggling or intermittent, call quality may drop. Click the dropdowns for more info:

To make computer-to-computer calls, our top pick providers are:

Computer-to-phone calls Cheap calls to landlines and mobiles using your computer

Computer-to-phone VoIP calls work in a similar way to computer-to-computer calls. Though as you're calling an actual phone, and not an internet phone, it will cost, depending on the service. Several providers let you make calls like this, including Skype and Localphone.

Many providers allocate you a number on which to receive calls. Some even provide an adapter that bypasses the computer altogether and plugs into your normal phone handset.

Calling phones from your computer can be expensive

Often, for web-to-phone calls, it's cheaper to dial a special access number for super-cheap calls. Massive savings are possible on call costs to landlines, mobiles and overseas by using specialist no frills providers, without changing your phone line. The MSE CallChecker lists that the cheapest override providers.

VoIP providers

When using VoIP for free calls, providers are pretty similar, and the best one for you is really a personal preference. The crucial thing is to ensure you both have the same app. Also factor in your handset type and if you want to make video calls.

To make completely free calls, you and the person you're calling needs to use the same provider. If not, you'll pay. Here are our VoIP provider top picks:

FaceTime

FaceTime for iPhone & iPadMake free video calls to other Apple users

If you've got an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, you can make free video calls to other Apple users who also have the app. If you have a mac computer with Mac OS X or above, you'll also be able to facetime.

All new Apple devices come with FaceTime already installed, so you can start using it straightaway, without setting up a user name or password.

iPhone 4 users can only use FaceTime over wi-fi, however other iPhone users (4S and 5) can use the service over both wi-fi and with a data allowance. However be wary of eating into your data allowance.

Using the 3G connection will eat into your data limit, but the cost is minimal. Vodafone says a 10-minute FaceTime call will use about 30MB of mobile data.

Those with the IOS 7 operating system on their iPhone or iPad can use FaceTime Audio. This lets you make voice calls in the same way as above. Handily, it tells you how much data you've used on each call, helping you avoid eating into your allowance.

  • Type of calls: iPhone-to-iphone video calls
  • Cost to use: Free to download, calls are free (but will use minimal 3G data, or wi-fi)
  • Can be used on: iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches, iMacs
  • Feedback: FaceTime feedback forum discussion
Vonage

VonageUse your home phone to make VoIP calls

Sign up to Vonage and you can make free calls to other landlines and mobiles using Vonage, anywhere in the world, via your landline handset. You just need to plug an adapter into your broadband router.

If you make a huge number of long phone-to-phone overseas calls, a package with Vonage may be the most MoneySaving route.

Make just a few overseas calls per year, and a no-frills cheap override provider will be cheaper (see the MSE CallChecker).

  • Type of calls: PC-to-phone, phone-to-phone (using an adapter), phone-to-phone smartphone app
  • Cost to use: Calls free from Vonage-to-Vonage, other calls are chargeable. Price plans start from £6/month for unlimited UK calls, and go up to £13.80/month for unlimited calls to 68 countries (including India).
  • Can be used on: Landlines and Windows computers
  • Feedback: Vonage feedback forum discussion
Rebtel

Rebtel Good for non-smartphone mobiles

You can use Rebtel on smartphones, iPads and Android tablets via an app using a mobile internet connection (wi-fi or 3G) or PC.

Like Skype and Viber, calls are only free to other Rebtel users. However, it's by no means the cheapest way to call non-Rebtel users.

For example, someone using the Rebtel app on their mobile in the UK to call a mobile in the US (not using Rebtel) would pay nearly 0.69p/minute. The cheapest specialist override provider listed on the MSE CallChecker costs just 0.5p/min (plus a 5p connection per call).

  • Type of calls: Phone-to-phone, video and
    voice calls
    (plus instant messaging)
  • Cost to use: Free to download, free to other Rebtel users via the web, cheap calls to international destinations, plus data costs if using 3G
  • Can be used on: Home phones, Windows computers, iPhones, Android phones/devices, iPads
  • Feedback: Rebtel feedback forum discussion
Skype

Skype*Free Skype-to-Skype, other calls not very cheap

Used by over 600 million people around the world, Skype* is the biggest name in VoIP, letting you make free voice or video calls to other Skype users.

You can use it on Windows computers (with speakers and a headset) and even on some smart TVs. To use it on your mobile, download the free mobile app (works on iPhones, Android phones and Windows phones).

You can also make Skype calls using your landline via a home phone adapter, or a cordless home phone with Skype already built in.

Whichever way you choose, if the person you're calling has Skype too, you won't pay. So someone using Skype on an iPhone in the UK to call someone using Skype on their TV in the US is free, for example.

Never automatically use Skype to make a phone call

While it's free to call a Skype contact, using Skype to call real phone numbers abroad is by no means the cheapest way.

For example, using Skype in the UK to call a US landline would cost 1.7p/min. Yet the cheapest override provider charges 0.5p/minute. To find the cheapest provider for each country, use the MSE CallChecker comparison service.

  • Type of calls: Phone-to-phone, computer-to-computer and computer-to-phone voice
    and video calls
  • Cost to use: Free to download, calls are free to other Skype users, or chargeable if calling a landline/mobile number not using Skype
  • Can be used on: Windows computers, Macs, mobiles, tablets, home phones, some smart TVs, some games consoles
  • Feedback: Skype feedback forum discussion
Viber

Viber Free Viber-to-Viber video and voice calls

About 200 million people now use Viber after a rapid rise to global popularity. Like Skype, it lets you make free voice and video calls to friends and family who're fellow users.

You can use it on PCs, Macs, all mobile phones and tablets. To get it on your phone, just download the free app and you can call Viber users anywhere in the world for zilch.

When you're calling from an iPhone or Android device, use wi-fi, as 3G can incur big charges. To use Viber on a tablet or computer, you have to install it on your phone first.

While you can't use Viber to make calls on a landline, its rates are at least cheap for calls from mobiles to non users. There's a 'Viber Out' option, for iPhone and Android devices, which lets you buy credit to make these calls on a pay-as-you-go basis.

If you used Viber in the UK to call a mobile in Australia it's 0.11p/min. The same call via Skype costs 1.7p/min.

To check that you're always using the cheapest provider for each country, use the MSE CallChecker comparison service.

  • Type of calls: Mobile-to-phone voice calls, computer-to-computer video and voice calls, computer-to-phone voice calls
  • Cost to use: Free to download, calls are free to other Viber users, or chargeable if calling a landline/mobile number not using Viber
  • Can be used on: Windows computers, Macs, mobiles, tablets
  • Feedback: Viber feedback forum discussion
Vyke

VykeSmartphone app that works on all phones

Another popular VoIP provider is Vyke. Like others here, it has a free smartphone app, which you can use to make cheap calls to landlines or mobiles over wi-fi, or using your mobile 3G/4G connection.

You can use the app on PCs, iPhones, iPads, Android devices, Blackberrys and tablets.

Vyke works by transferring you to a network provider first (i.e BT), then transferring you to the number you called. The company says this improves the quality of calls, as opposed to a straight wi-fi connection.

It also means you can call any mobile or landline globally either via the web OR using a phone signal. The latter could be an expensive option for some though.

Unlike most other VoIP providers, its rates to call real phone numbers abroad can be competitive. For example, using an iPhone in the UK to call a US landline would cost just 9p hour, compared with 30p on the cheapest override provider. Though always compare rates using the MSE CallChecker to find the cheapest way.

  • Type of calls: Mobile-to-mobile or landline, computer-to-mobile or landline
  • Cost to use: Free to download app, cheap calls to mobiles and landlines.
  • Can be used on: iPhone, Android mobiles, Blackberry, Windows computers, iPads, tablets
  • Feedback: Vyke feedback forum discussion
Localphone

LocalphoneApp for iPhones and Androids

Localphone offers cheap calls to other Localphone users and a number of ways to make calls. You can call phone-to-phone, PC-to-PC, or PC-to-phone (though, as always, this can be chargeable).

Rates for calls to non-Localphone numbers are very competitive though. You get a free call for five minutes when you sign up.

We've received good feedback about Localphone, so it's worth trying. It often runs free call promotions to normal phones too (when it does, they'll be featured in the free MoneySaving email). These usually give unlimited calls for free to a certain destination, with no obligation to continue using the service.

  • Type of calls: Phone-to-phone, computer-to-computer, computer-to-phone
  • Cost to use: Apps free to download, service, calls are cheap to other Localphone users, or chargeable if calling a landline/mobile not using Localphone
  • Can be used on: iPhones, Android mobiles,
    Windows computers, landlines
  • Feedback: Localphone feedback forum discussion

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