In ancient times (when all telephones were black and one phone
company told you what you could do), choices for talking at a distance were limited.
Today, you can use a combination of online and wireless devices
to be in contact with others in the most flexible way possible.
You don't have to be stuck with one company or one device or even a landline (which many people are discarding).
You can have a strategy for voice communication at home, around town, or around the world--online or off.
Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
The Internet itself transfers data among users, so it is no surprise that it has been used to transfer audio among users. This simple idea has been extended to include interfaces to landline and cell phones, so that users of VoIP can connect to the global phone network. Dedicated VoIP phones are available. But simple software, with few additional equipment requirements, is available so that you can be talking using VoIP immediately.
My Choice: Skype
Skype connects you via the Internet to people all over the world. While you can call other Skype users for free, you can also (for a modest charge) make calls to (or receive calls from) people on landlines or cell phones all over the world. You can use your computer's microphone and speakers to communicate, or you can buy hardware like headsets or standalone Skype phones that work without your computer.
I use Skype because:
The easy-to-use software immediately connects me with other Skype users for free.
I can use Skype immediately with my computer's speakers or headphones and a simple microphone I bought for 99 cents. Any other equipment is optional.
For about $5 a month, I get my own Skype phone number for incoming phone calls and can call out to any phone. Unlimited nationwide calling. Worldwide phones are available to call for very modest rates.
Skype's features include call forwarding (from my computer to my cell phone) and voice mail. Incoming calls go to voicemail when my computer is off.
Skype is not tied to my physical address or Internet Service Provider. I could move to a new apartment or change my ISP and still keep the same Skype phone number.
I was up and running with my Skype account and number in minutes after ordering. I did not have to wait for some company to complete an order, hook me up, or have specialized equipment delivered.
Mobile Communication: True Choices
Back in ancient times, mobile phone communication trapped users into a kind of phone slavery of required contracts and lavish fees and charges for unwanted services.
Today, you can take control of your mobile communications and
buy exactly what you want instead of what a company wants to sell you.
First, get rid of the idea that you should sign any long-term agreement.
Get rid of the idea that you need a landline phone.
Get rid of the idea that you have to tolerate the evil that many phone companies continue to dish out to customers.
My Choice: Tracfone
If you are a casual mobile phone user, a pre-paid mobile phone might work well for you.
I chose a pre-paid cell phone because it made the most sense to me in terms of flexibility and pricing.
I use it in addition to Skype to keep my total phone costs low.
In June of 2008,
I got a Tracfone with pre-paid cellular service.
Since then, I've been 100% satisfied with this phone and the Tracfone service.
The reasons I appreciate this phone are:
Mobilty! This is my first cell phone. Having a phone that you can take anywhere is the best invention since the telephone itself.
Simplicity! I haven't had to learn specialized jargon or memorize complex conditions for use.
Value! I can purchase airtime for less than 10 cents per minute, and I know there are no hidden fees or daily (or any) access charges.
Sales! While I have to keep the phone in service to keep my phone number and the minutes I have on it, I can purchase minute cards that include a year's service time if I want (90 days is available also). These cards are widely available at retailers or online:
Freedom! I have no contract. I don't feel like a slave to Tracfone or feel obligated to keep buying minutes for the phone if I don't feel it is of value to me. I could always just use up the minutes and let the phone go out of service without begging to be let out of a contract.
Simple! The costs are based on per-minute use, not on a plan. I could make one local call for two minutes today at 11:30 pm, and then next Tuesday at 10 am make 20 long-distance calls for 10 minutes each, and the per-minute charge is the same. I'm not motivated to change my call patterns to fit a plan, but I just simply use the phone when I need it.
Choice! I can use minutes on my phone whenever I want. For example, I could go for months without using the phone at all (as long as it is in its service date) with no loss of the minutes I have already purchased.
Flexibility! When I buy minutes and service time, the amounts are added to what I already have on the phone. For example, I could find a sale on minutes at a retailer or online vendor and immediately increase the minutes and service time on top of whatever I already have on the phone. The phone is like a stored value card or giftcard: the value is ready to be used or added to when you need.
Freedom from debt! I don't incur debt using this phone because the service time and minutes are pre-paid and displayed to me each time I use the phone.
Independence! This phone is not tied to my physical address. If I move to a new apartment, I don't have to call some phone company, pay fees, and then wait for service people to connect a landline.
Savings! Get a phone with double (or triple) minutes for life included. This increases the face value of tracfone cards you add to the phone.