There's no doubt that the internet has made our lives much more convenient and comfortable. Whether it's watching entertainment such as Netflix or the ability to find any information with a Google search, we have the internet to thank for it.
But perhaps the best thing the internet has provided us with is the ability to connect and talk to people worldwide. Geography is no longer a barrier; we can reach almost anyone in the blink of an eye.
It started with being able to send simple messages, but as the years passed, technology improved to where we can now make phone and video calls – all for free.
But what's not quite clear is how it all works, and that's what we’ll explore in this article. We'll also explain what the benefits and limitations are of making free calls online, what apps you have to choose from, and more.
You can make free calls online using an app or software that is downloaded on both the caller's and the recipient's devices. Since these calls are made through the internet, they will require an active internet connection for the calls to go through free of charge. Most apps will allow you to make a call from and to any device, including calls from a smartphone to another smartphone, from a computer to another computer, from a smartphone to a computer and vice versa.
Some free calling apps will give you the option to call landline and mobile numbers. However, these aren’t usually free. You will be charged per call or per minute of each call, and if you are someone who calls a lot, the cost can add up to be quite expensive.
When you make free phone calls online, they’re done using a technology called VoIP – an abbreviation for ‘Voice over Internet Protocol.
VoIP simply means that your voice is captured from your device and transmitted to the recipient on the other side through an internet connection. At the same time, and on the same network connection, the recipients’ voice is transmitted to you, thus creating two-way communication.
On the surface, this process sounds similar to a traditional phone call made with mobile and landline phones. The difference is that the data on normal phone calls go through a phone network connection.
However, free calls using VoIP are done solely through an internet network transmission. Therefore, although the data (your voice) is packaged and transmitted similarly, the channel through which it is done is different, hence why you need to be connected to the internet for this to work.
One of the many reasons why using VoIP is seen as an improvement is because you can also call a mobile number using this technology. You cannot call a VoIP service number via a mobile or landline number unless you install an external adapter. This means that making calls through a VoIP app or software can be much more practical.
You won’t be able to make landline calls over the internet straight out of the box. You will need to purchase an adapter that has to be installed into your landline and broadband ports.
The purpose of the adapter is to reroute calls to a service that connects you to an internet network. The same service will also allow you to receive calls over the internet.
However, these calls won’t be ‘free’ per se. You will be required to pay a monthly subscription fee for the rerouting service.
There are instances when the ability to make free internet phone calls can prove incredibly handy.
You aren’t tied down to one device
Some mobile phones are notorious for their poor battery life. This can be extremely frustrating, especially when the whole point of a mobile phone is to make calls when you’re out and about!
If your battery is dead or you have simply forgotten your phone at home, it’s nice to know that you can still make a phone call – all you need is a device connected to the internet.
This could be an iPod Touch, your laptop, or even a desktop computer; as long as the device has an internet connection and can download the app or software, making free calls will be possible.
Work-life and personal life separation
Ideally, you will want to separate your work and personal phone number if you’re talking to clients, customers, or business partners. The last thing you want is work-related calls disturbing you during out-of-work hours. But, it can be inconvenient to carry around two phones. Utilising VoIP software can help remedy this for you.
Most VoIP software and applications allow you to purchase a virtual phone number. This means you can make and receive phone calls over the internet for free without giving out your personal number.
Simply download the software on your work computer so that when it’s not in use, the software won’t notify you of any calls. Alternatively, you can install the app on your personal phone but turn off notifications outside of business hours. This helps separate your work life from your personal life.
Can make free international phone calls
Free calling also includes those made to international numbers. Therefore, if you make international calls regularly, free international calls that come with VoIP apps can save you a large amount of money.
It can seem like there are no drawbacks to VoIP apps and software, but unfortunately, as with all things, it’s not perfect. The fact that you can make free calls means there will be some limitations.
Need an active internet connection
To use free internet calls, you will naturally require access to an internet connection. Therefore, if your internet connection goes down for some time, you won’t be able to make or receive calls during that period.
This can be annoying in rural areas where your 4G or 5G connection is weak, or if you have a poor broadband connection at home as both will affect the call quality and call reliability.
Apps need to be installed on both devices
Suppose you are using a free messaging and calling app. In order to make a free call, you and the recipient must have the app installed. This limits the number of people you can make a free phone call to.
There are VoIP apps and software out there that will allow you to make phone calls directly to a phone number. However, you typically have to pay a fee or a monthly subscription – at that point, it’s no longer a ‘free’ call.
Unable to call emergency numbers
Something to be aware of is that many VoIP providers do not allow you to call emergency numbers. This means you will have to make these phone calls using your mobile phone or landline number. However, more and more providers are amending this going forward.
Most VoIP apps are quite similar in that they all offer free calls to users of their app, they offer messaging services, and almost all provide you with the option to make a video call.
The app you choose to make your free calls will depend entirely on what apps are popular with your contacts.
It should be noted that all these apps will require an internet connection to make a successful call. Whether that’s over Wi-Fi or your mobile data, your free calls will only go through if you are connected to the internet.
Best all-in-one app with free messaging and calling
The benefit of WhatsApp is it works across different operating systems. This means that whether you have an iPhone with iOS or an Android phone, you will be able to make and receive phone and video calls for free. This makes it incredibly convenient to consolidate your messages and calls in one place, regardless of your device and location.
Although you cannot make calls to landline numbers, all calls and messages made to users within the app will be completely free. Both calls and messages are secured with end-to-end encryption to give its users peace of mind that nobody is eavesdropping on their conversations.
It also has the added benefit of a web-based messaging service which allows you to send messages through a browser. Although calls have to be made using a mobile phone, the flexibility to work through messages on your browser can be useful.
Best app for calling landline and mobile numbers
When it comes to making phone calls to both in-app users and to non-users, Skype is the biggest name in the VoIP industry.
It is a free app that can be used on all platforms and can even be integrated with some smart TVs, making it a versatile piece of software. Calls will be free to all Skype users regardless of their location.
Unlike WhatsApp, you also have the option to make calls to any landline or mobile phone number. However, it should be noted that calls to non-Skype users will not be free. You will have to purchase credits which can then be used to make such calls.
Best app for international calls
Vyke is another popular VoIP service provider. Much like the apps mentioned above, Vyke has a free app that can be downloaded on your smartphone or computer.
Calls and messages to users within the app will be free of charge, and you will be able to make calls to mobile and landline numbers for a small fee. But, the app really shines in its call rates for international numbers.
Vyke’s rates for international calls are some of the most competitive in the entire industry. Although these calls won’t be free if they’re not made to another Vyke user, it may be the cheapest rate you can find in the market.
Best app for video calls in the Apple ecosystem
Facetime is one of the most popular apps in the Apple store. It can be used on all Apple devices, regardless if it’s an iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, or a Mac computer. Of course, an active internet connection will be required to make these video calls, but they will be free of charge.
The only drawback with Facetime is that it is limited to Apple devices. If the person you are trying to call has an android device, then one of the other options on this list could be of better use.