A new low-cost voice over Internet Protocol service started by serial entrepreneur Michael Robertson promises to provide cheap phone calls without requiring any software to be downloaded.
The service, called GizmoCall, launched this week. Unlike Skype, which requires users to download a software client to use the service, GizmoCall is Flash-based, requiring nothing more than a browser. Users simply go to the Web site, sign up for a username and password, and start making calls.
Just like other VoIP services, the allure of GizmoCall is that it provides free and low-cost calling. Free calls can be made to other GizmoCall users and to Gizmo5 users. Gizmo5 is a version of the same service that requires a software client and also provides other features, such as instant messaging.
But what is cool about GizmoCall is that it also allows users to make free calls to toll-free numbers and Session Initiation Protocol addresses. SIP is used to enable telephone calls to be made over the Internet. Using a SIP address, which consists of a username and domain name, enables people to make and receive phone calls all over the world. Services like Net2Max provide SIP addresses and can even help people forward SIP calls to their Skype user accounts.
GizmoCall also allows people to call traditional phones and cell phones for low rates. And for a fee, users can also accept calls. But users have to be signed into the service to accept calls. The service works on all browsers running on Mac, Windows, or Linux operating systems.
I tried the service on Tuesday to see how it compares to other services, such as Skype. For the most part, the call quality was comparable to Skype.
I made a quick free call using a toll-free number, and it was fine. But adding money to my GizmoCall account so I could call regular phones was not so easy. I followed the instructions to add $10 to my account using my credit card. Two hours later, my account was still at zero, even though the service had accepted my credit card.
I've had similar credit issues with other VoIP services. I was told by one VoIP company that there is a lot of fraud associated with these services, so everyone is very careful to verify orders. But as a legitimate user trying to use the service, it was just annoying.
I suppose that the service is useful for someone who doesn't want to download software onto his computer. But I didn't really find the service or any feature compelling enough to ditch Skype. The holy grail of VoIP services is finally creating a service that enables free calls to anyone, including traditional phones and cell phones. Until that happens, most of these services seem the same to me.