Phone 2.0 – Skype!

Have you tried Skype yet? If not, why not?! Probably because you couldn’t think of a good reason to use Skype over your regular phone or cell phone, especially since you can make free long-distance calls with your cell phone, which at one time would have been a good reason to use something like Skype.

I had the same thoughts when my mom and uncle started using Skype and were trying to get us to set it up. I waited quite a while before setting it up, just because it seemed like a hassle and I couldn’t think of a good reason for it.

Well, I have changed my mind! I installed Skype for us and surprise! It was a piece of cake to install (really! even for people who are not comfortable with computers) and we found so many uses for it that I am surprised that we did without it before. Here are some of the things we use it for:

1. For absolutely free, we can talk to my husband’s brother who is going to school in Italy. And since it is much easier for him to be online than to be near a phone, we can talk to him frequently where otherwise we would not easily be able to get a hold of him. Skype makes it very easy to know when someone is available and online, the symbol for that person turns green.

2. Again free, we can all talk to him in a family conference call where anyone who is online can be conferenced into a call. So we can all catch up on everyone at the same time and we can also make plans or discuss things in a group instead of playing “he said, she said”.

3. My sister just moved to Florida for 13 weeks (and will be traveling around the U.S. since she is a traveling surgical tech). She has set up Skype and a web cam at home and on her laptop. So she and her husband can talk to each other and see each other at the same time. When you are away from loved ones, seeing them is very good. Free!

4. And my sister just became a grandmother for the first time. So she can use Skype and the webcam to see her granddaughter and to see her get bigger and all the new things a baby does. It just isn’t the same at all to look at pictures. And of course, she talks to Grace and Grace gets to see and interact with her too (or at least hear her voice, she is still a a very new baby). Need I say it – free!

5. My husband’s father and mother live in New Zealand. So of course it is expensive to call them. And one doesn’t even have a computer and the other is not very computer-literate so she doesn’t have Skype installed (and may never). But for $29.95 a year, we can call any regular or cell phone in the US and Canada. And for 2.1 cents a minute (plus a small connection fee), we can call any regular phone in New Zealand. This is much, much cheaper than calling international long distance on our land line.

Having this, we could get rid of our international calling plan and for that matter, we could get rid of our long distance on our regular phone altogether since we can use our cell phone or skype to call national long-distance and Skype for international. Take a look at your phone bill sometime, especially if you call international long distance, and see how much you spend each month for that service. It’s not just the per-minute fee, but all the taxes they add on each month, and you only have to make 1 long-distance call to incur a ton of extra charges.

The different countries have different rates but for the vast majority of them, they are considerably cheaper. And of course, if the other party has Skype, it is absolutely FREE!

6. A friend of ours has a business that takes him out of the US regularly since he has offices both here and in England. I think that what he has done is to set up two SkypeIn phone numbers, one for the US and one for England. That way people in either location can call a long-distance number in their own country (so it is free from their cell phone). And he can be anywhere and get the call. He can be sitting on the shore in England and take a call to his US number. To get a SkypeIn number (a number that anyone can call from a regular phone, it looks like a regular phone number), it is $60 a year and includes free voice mail.

Also, even if you live in the US, if most of your business is done in a different country, you can get a SkypeIn number for that country and people can call you on a phone number that is local to them. I have another friend who does a lot of business in Japan and if he is not using this, he really should. I’ll have to ask him because it would be really useful for him.

7. Until we had a lightening strike that took it out (!), we had set up a small device that plugged into our phone and into our computer. We have a phone setup that has 1 base phone and then 3 phones you can plug in anywhere, they don’t need a phone line. We plugged the base unit into the device and then we could make and take Skype calls from any of our regular phones. We got it from and it worked great. It had lots of great features including call recording, voice mail, routing calls to and making calls from other phones (like our cell phone) and all sorts of neat things. They probably have newer models out now. We bought ours from von-phone.com. This is what we got:

AU-600 Skype Gateway with Remote Calling and Call Recording 1 $38.9

There are also many add-ons to Skype. Here is a list of Skype add-ons to record calls and take messages:

http://www.masternewmedia.org/online_collaboration/skype-recording/how-to-record-Skype-calls-tools-guide-20070624.htm

Note: PrettyMay and KishKish Sam are free

8. We have not used this yet since we haven’t had an international vacation lately (and I am NOT happy about that). But since we do normally do a lot of international traveling, we will be able to call people easily very easily, which is not usually the case. And as I understand, we will be able to call any US phone for free, regardless of where we are, because we have a Skype Unlimited US account. And of course, we can call other countries for the regular Skype Out International Rates.

Sean has also taken an old cell phone that doesn’t work anymore (was replaced with a different one) that has a wireless card and set Skype up on it. What that lets us do is to connect through the phone using a wireless connection rather than needing a computer. Since wireless connections are becoming ubiquitous really, throughout the world, it’s a good way to call people without having to haul a computer around.

I remember when I was “backpacking” through Thailand for a month in 2001 and even then, I could always find a computer with an internet connection, although finding a phone to call from was difficult and a hassle to use. Even in the tiny village of Pai (which took about 8 hours to get to from Chang Mai, riding on a big pickup truck with benches in the back), I could find a couple internet cafes. But there was only 1 public phone in the whole village, in the post office on the farthest end of town. To use it, I wait in this long line, then I had to fill out a bunch of paperwork (and didn’t really understand it all so they made me correct it several times) and then I had to dial a bunch of numbers that I couldn’t get to work and then there was a time limit of 10 minutes. And I knew I would be going at least a week before I could call him again. …But I digress… 🙂

Anyway, as you can see, these are uses that we have found for Skype so far. And I know there are many other great uses. But this made it worthwhile to us.

Do you think it might be worthwhile to you?

~Susan Mellott

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~ by smmellott on July 27, 2007.

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