Why pay for voice minutes on your smartphone tariff when everything else is carried over the mobile data connection? It's a good question, and the answer is you don't have to, if you install one of the growing number of apps that lets you make calls using VoIP (voice over internet protocol). Calls to users of compatible services are free, subject to your data plan, and even those to phones get cheaper. We'll take a look at a UK-based option, Truphone.
1. Install the app To get started, download the free Truphone app to your Google Android phone from the Android Market and click Install. Launch the app and click Create New Account. Give yourself a username and password, enter a valid email address, then click Create. You may get a warning stating that the app hasn't been tested for your handset and some functions may not work correctly. Click OK to continue.
2. Dial a number The Truphone Dialler presents you with a touchscreen mobile phone-style keypad like the one you'd normally use to make voice calls. Dial a number by touching the ‘keys', or select someone from your contacts list and press the green Call button. Truphone routes the call over the internet, so calls to regular phone numbers work out cheaper than a standard call on most networks, especially for international. You'll need to sign up with Truphone and buy credit; remaining credit is displayed in the bottom left corner of the screen and is adjusted after each call ends.
3. Free Wi-Fi calls You can call other Truphone users (along with those of compatible services including Skype and Google Talk) for free when your device is connected to the internet via Wi-Fi. Click on the number field in the Dialler to access the on-screen keypad. Use this to enter the Truphone username of the person you want, then tap Call. Note, however, that we found no way of identifying which of your contacts are on Truphone. You'll need to ask them for their username and enter it here.
4. Other VoIP services To contact Skype and Google Talk users over a Wi-Fi connection in the same way, you just need to add these accounts to your list of IM services within the Truphone app.
5. Add VoIP contacts Select More from the top right-hand side of the Dialler screen and choose the IM option. From the Services tab, select Add IM Service to display the screen shown here and choose one of the four options from the drop-down menu: MSN, AIM, Skype or Google Talk (only the latter two currently support voice). After entering your username and password, tap Add IM Service. Under the Services tab, you'll now see an icon for the service you just added and an option to sign out. Select the IM tab to see your contacts from the added services, with those currently available highlighted in green.
6. Start talking To call one of your available Skype or Google friends, click on a contact name. A text box and onscreen keyboard will pop up to let you type and send them an instant message. Alternatively, hit your device's Menu button to bring up the option to call them. Tap the Call option and Truphone will initiate the phone call.
7. International calls Truphone also offers cheaper long-distance calls. Truphone Anywhere redirects you to a local access number which completes your call via Truphone's server. When you dial, the screen shows ‘Setting up the call' and a voice explains you'll be using Truphone Anywhere; hang up if you don't want to.
8. Top up credit The app lets you view and top up your Truphone account from your Android device. From the More menu, select My Account. The first time you do this you'll need to enter your mobile phone number for validation. You'll then be able to view your balance and rates, register a credit card and change your password.