VoIP, also known as Internet telephony, is a small but growing application for office dwellers today. Thanks to dropped calls, poor battery life, or other problems normally associated with cell phones, VoIP is becoming more and more popular, especially on smartphones like the iPhone. The most popular application for VoIP is Skype, which has recorded over 23 million simultaneous users online.
The problem with any VoIP program on the computer is that it requires a microphone and speakers or a headset. A microphone and speakers are generally discouraged because they can cause a feedback loop (that echoing and high-pitched squeal you hear when you put two cell phones on the same line close to each other). Most of us use headsets, but they’re usually wired, anchoring us to our workstations. Fiddling around with audio settings and tangled cables is the last thing anyone wants to do before making or receiving a call. And besides, if the phone call is more than five minutes long, you don’t want to be tethered by a wire the whole time.
However, with an extra iPhone or iPod Touch, you can install Skype or a number of different free VoIP apps, such as iCall Free VoIP or VoipMobile, and call out through your handheld. With the iPod Touch, users will need a headset because it has no microphone, but it’s still better than being glued to the chair. With the iPhone or Touch, now you can make VoIP calls while pacing the office, staying connected all the while through a local WiFi connection. This can also be done with your new iPhone 4, but why block your cell line and spend precious battery life when you don’t need to? The older i-device can do that for you!
The downside is that unlike standalone VoIP phones, the application must stay open to receive calls unless you pay for another phone number. For Skype, which allows for free online calls, the app must remain open but it won’t ring and will only vibrate. Still, prospective users can have Skype open on their computer and iPhone, which would ring on a PC and vibrate on a phone.
The other problem is that to remain connected to a WiFi connection constantly, the iPhone or iPod Touch must be plugged in and charging or set so it does not go to sleep. More proficient users can jailbreak their devices and use the application Insomnia, which will keep your iPhone connected to WiFi even when the phone is in standby mode. (See more on Jailbreaking on below.)