It seems like a new IP telephony company announces launch every day and it is getting harder and harder to figure out how you can use each since every one has some features that competitors don't.
I have spent some time sorting out what I know and summarized my knowledge in this blog post. I didn't mean to cover all the possible features each service offers but rather to highlight the differences. I specifically made accent to cover the free functionality. Usually you can loosen the restrictions or get additional features if you subscribe to a premium plan or pay per feature.
Free PC to PC calls. Free PC to phone calls in the US until the end of 2006. Free teleconferencing for up to 5 people. Larger conference calls (Skypecasts) are also free but require prior registration via the website.
Once unlimited free PC to phone promotion is over, the only other feature that attracts me in Skype is teleconferencing (I use it for online gaming). In addition international plans from Skype (not free) is a good alternative when my regular provider is giving me hard time with voice quality. Skypecasts is something I would like to explore more but never have time.
You initiate a call from the web and then get a call back to continue the conversation via the phone. Free calls in the US and between some countries for registered members. Moble telephony is available for phones running Symbian OS or Java.
Free international calls is the most attractive functionality. Unfortunately the countries I call most often are not included. Read my detailed Jajah review here.
You get a local number and can register up to 3 of your phones to be dialed in a sequence when you receive a call. Unlimited inbound calling, 30 days of voice mail storage, on the fly conversation recording. In addition you get custom greetings and distinct rings but I never used them.
Typical usage: If I have a project that requires giving out a support number, I will get it from GrandCentral and register my and my partners' phones with it. This way if we get a call there will always be someone to answer.
|PrivatePhone by NetZero||
You get a local number and a storage for up to 10,000 voice messages (500 per day limit). You can check your messages online or play them out via an embedded widget on your blog or website.
It is hard to find a good usage for this one since all the number does is it forwards the caller to your voice mail. Might use it for my eBay or CraigsList auctions to add credibility to my listings and provide a way to communicate with me for those who hate doing it online.
Currently in private beta and not publicly available. Reportedly will allow to embed a widget into your blog or website to allow everyone call you without knowing your real number.
I plan to use it at my blog as soon as the service becomes available. The idea of having people call me while reading my blog sounds appealing. If it doesn't work out that well -- I can always take down the widget. ;-)
In addition I use GoogleTalk for occasional PC to PC calls however Skype has really taken the place lately thanks to the conference calling feature which GoogleTalk doesn't have.
If you use these or other services and know more free telephony tips -- I would love to hear from you. Also make sure to take this poll.