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VoIP service, while simpler than before, can still seem complicated.

Here's an easy list of features that you can use to help you decide which VoIP service would be your best choice.

 
 
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How to Choose the Best VoIP Internet Phone Service

Use this information to help decide which VoIP service is best for you.

Part 4 of a 8 part series - click for Parts  One  Two  Three  Four  Five  Six  Seven  Eight

 

 

There are so many different choices out there when it comes to VoIP service that it is hard to know which one is best for you.

Use our articles on VoIP to understand which features are important to you, and then use this chart to decide which VoIP service offers the features you need and is therefore your best choice.

VoIP Feature Comparisons

Although we provide an extensive table of comparative features for the six VoIP service providers below, don't get afflicted by 'featuritis'.  The chances are you'll never use most of these features, any more than you use many of the features on your home or office phone at present.

Don't make a buying choice purely on the number of features offered by each different VoIP provider.  Instead, look for the features you need, must have, and will use, and check that your preferred provider will be able to give you these features.

Note also that in the fast evolving VoIP phone service marketplace, all three companies are adding new features regularly.  If your preferred service provider is missing only one 'must have' feature, check with them to see if they plan to add it in the near future.

If you find an error in the information in our table, or if you have other features you suggest we should include, please let us know.

For most people, the key part of this table will be the final part - the pricing!

 

Feature

Vonage

Packet 8

VoicePulse

MagicJack

VoiceStick

Skype

Lingo
(review pending)

Product Type

Hardware

Hardware

Hardware

Hardware / software combo

Software

Software

Hardware

Caller ID number

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Caller ID name

Y

N

Y

N

N

 

 

Call Waiting

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

Y

3-way calling

Y

Y

Y

Y - but only for two incoming calls

Y

Y

Y

Call Transfer

Y

in Virtual Office only

N

N

'coming soon'

 

Y

Call Forwarding

Y

Y

Y

Fixed to a designated number for all calls

Y

Y

Y

Calls forwarded if power fails

Y

N

Y

If call forwarding activated

n/a

 

 

Hunt Groups (Call Forward Busy)

Y

N

Y

N

N

 

Y

Call Forward No Answer

Y

N

Y

N

N

 

Y

Voicemail

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Voicemail to email

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

Y

24/7 Phone based Customer Support

Y

Y

N

N

simple first level only

 

Y

Free calls to other subscribers

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

Anonymous call blocking

N

N

Y

N

N

 

Y

Auto redial

Y

N

Y

N

N

 

Y

Return call speed dial (*69)

Y

Y (in July 04)

Y

N - but feature in the software interface

N

N - but feature in the software interface

Y

Telemarketer tone block

N

N

Y

N

N

 

 

Outgoing caller ID block
(one call/all calls)

Y/N

N/Y

Y/Y

N

N

 

Y/Y

Contact List custom caller ID

N

N

Y

N

N

N

 

Distinctive Ringing

N

in Virtual Office only

Y

N

N

 

Y

Do Not Disturb

N

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Speed Dial numbers

N

N

99

N - but dial from Contacts list

Y

 

8

DISA - call into system and out again from any number

N

N

N

N

Y

 

N

Outgoing fax calls

Y

unofficial

unofficial

?

N

 

 

Incoming fax calls

Y

unofficial

unofficial

?

N

 

 

(800) numbers

Y

Y (in July 04)

N

?

N

 

 

Local area codes in how many states

38

44

40

24

47

 

 

Costs

Feature

Vonage

Packet 8

VoicePulse

MagicJack

VoiceStick

Skype

Lingo
(review pending)

Cheapest monthly plan

$16.49 includes 500 mins

(Vonage rates have a $1.50 a month hidden surcharge)

$14.99 includes 500 mins of US/Canada calling

$15.89 includes unlimited local and  200 long distance mins

$1.67 (ie $19.95/yr) includes unlimited calling in the US and Canada

$0 includes no minutes, 2c/min for outbound calls to US/ Canada, 1.2c/min for incoming calls

$0 includes no minutes, 2.1c a minute outbound, no inbound service

$14.95 includes 500 minutes within US/Canada/ PR

Unlimited local

$26.49 with unlimited long distance in US/ Canada/ PR

$24.99 with unlimited US/ Canada, France, Italy, Ireland, Spain, UK calling

$15.89 includes 200 long distance mins

$1.67

$19.99 for unlimited US and Canada

$3 'Skype Pro' includes unlimited calling within US and Canada

$16.25 - requires 1 yr prepay ($195) with unlimited US, Canada, and PR

All US unlimited

$26.49 includes Canada and PR too

$24.99 same as above plan

$26.49

$1.67

$19.99 for unlimited US and Canada

$3 Skype Pro

$16.25 same as above plan

Signup Costs

Activation fee and shipping = $30

No extra cost for adapter

Activation fee, no shipping = $30

No extra cost for adapter

Activation fee and shipping = $40

No extra cost for adapter

$20 for adapter, shipping cost varies

Activation fee = $30 but one month free service included

Optional VoiceStick is $35 or software download is free

None

Activation fee and shipping = $45

No extra cost for adapter

Intl call to UK (per min)

4c

3c

5c

2c

1.1c

2.1c

3c

Intl call to Moscow

7c

2c

6c

2c

1c

2.1c

7c

Intl call to Australia

5c

3c

6c

3c

2c

2.1c

5c

Intl call to Canada

same as US

same as US

3c

same as US

1c

2.1c

3c

 

Summary

Pricewise the lowest cost service is probably VoiceStick, whether you use the service a little or a lot, and whether your calling is local, long distance, or international.

However, VoiceStick's feature set is the most basic of all the services.  But, realistically, you're unlikely to notice the absence of some of the more advanced features.  VoiceStick also has unique extra features like its 'i2Bridge' or DISA feature and so is our current favorite (Sep 05) for 'best all rounder'.

Update April 08 :  Overall, there have been only very small movements in plan prices, but newcomer Magicjack has now displaced VoiceStick (which has discontinued its free European calling inclusion) as best value product for most people.

If so, please donate to keep the website free and fund the addition of more articles like this. Any help is most appreciated - simply click below to securely send a contribution through a credit card and Paypal.

 

Originally published 11 Jun 2004, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
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