The number of VoIP services continues to increase rapidly and the prices are spiralling down to free. Michael Arrington at TechCrunch has the latest:
The VOIP wars are already crowded with more competitors than can possibly build a business. Well capitalized players like Vonage and Skype battle with nimble startups like Gizmo and Jajah in a race for relevance. All have their own twists on the idea of cheap or free calls using the internet. The most recent entrant, Hullo, is a worthy addition to the crowd. Hullo is most like Jajah, with a few notable differences.
Jajah allows easy phone-to-phone calls from their website. It has a somewhat complicated pricing structure, but the important thing to know is that it is free or damn close to free for most calls in the US and Europe. To make a call, you type in your phone number and the phone number you are calling. A moment later your phone rings. Pick it up and the person you are calling is ringing on the other end. From that point on it’s a normal phone call. Jajah generally requires you to initiate calls from their website, although they do have an Outlook plugin, firefox extension and Mac address book plugin as well to ease the process of calling. Simple, straightforward, cheap.
Hullo is a little different. The actual process of having a call is the same as Jajah – first your phone rings, then the person calling you. But as Alec Saunders notes in his review, it does a lot more, too.
First of all, it’s impossible to spend money on the service, at least for now. Everything is free.
That part sounds good as do the features described in the rest of the article and in the Alec Sunders review linked above. I especially like the conference calling capability, but here’s a quote from Saunders about the real bottom line:
Best of all, all North American calls are free, whether you make them on the softclient, or on a handset, and whether you make them to another hullo member, or to a non-member. When compared to Skype, this means you can make a free call from any handset as well as a PC. And when compared to Gizmo, you can make a free call to anybody, not just another Gizmo member. This up’s the ante significantly in the price spat Skype and Gizmo started.
The company is focusing their launch on the college and high school crowd. The features have been designed recognizing that young people are increasingly the most sophisticated users of mobile phones. hullo’s feature set makes it easy to use those phones to socialize, arrange events, or stay in touch with friends and family who might live in different cities. It’s not hard to imagine how appealing this will be for students away from home for the first time.
And appealing to everyone else too. I wonder how long it can stay free?