Monday, August 20, 2007

oneFone's mobile VoIP is slick, but wiFon's seamless handover is even cooler

In the last days I played with Wifimobile's oneFone VoIP client for Nokia's E- and N-Series and liked it very much. Business Development Manager John O'Prey had invited me for a free trial.

The oneFone client is so easy to use that at first I did everything wrong. You just have to start the program and then you should forget it until your next call. Instead I pushed many buttons, because I didn't know how to dial a number. The program's contact list contained only four SIP addresses, which it had harvested from my address book. But how to dial other numbers? I didn't find a button and searched so much that that the program hung itself up.

I should have read the manual! In an email John explained to me:
To dial a landline minimise oneFone to the background and dial as normal. You can also dial directly from your contact list. Let oneFone run in the background and use your phone as you normally would.

And it really works like this. You start the program once and then let it disappear by hitting the "Back" button. Afterwards you can forget it. When you dial a number, in the same way as you always do on your mobile phone, the program kicks in and establishes the call over VoIP. Before the call really starts a voice says "Thank you for using Wifimobile". That's to indicate that this call will not appear on your normal phone bill but goes for free over Wifi. Unless of course that you make the oneFone call over 3G. I did that once and it cost me only 3 Cents of a Euro. The quality was acceptable, it nearly sounded like a normal GSM phone call. But taking into account the high data costs in Europe I recommend to use only the "Auto WLAN" mode which prevents VoIP calls over 3G.

The entire oneFone application seems like a least cost router for mobile phones. Comparable to Cellity the program kicks in only if it can connect the call cheaper than your cell phone contract. The website explains it:
Only £15.99 €11.99 £7.99 Per Month

The oneFone service from WiFiMobile allows you to make unlimited* free calls to landlines in over 40 countries as well as mobile phones in certain countries including the USA. For a list of countries that you can call for free click here.

All calls to landline and mobile numbers to countries not listed here are automatically routed through your normal GSM provider. This allows us to guarantee that customers are never charged more than the set monthly line rental.

*The unlimited free calls are subject to a fair usage policy.

The list of free countries covers probably every destination you need. I was happy to see that even Peru is free. What I really like about oneFone is how inobstrusive it is. You just don't notice the program anymore, once you have it enabled. They don't even give you a login to their website for a call history list. Calls go over oneFone free of charge, covered by the flatrate tariff, or they go over GSM and appear on your cell phone bill. So why keep track of them.

Also you don't need to give a new phone number to your pals, like you have to do as a Truphone user, because oneFone uses your normal cell phone number as caller ID when it establishes the call. So the company can directly work on an international scale, other than Truphone which has only UK or US numbers and still has to apply with the regulators for numbers from other countries.

Both companies give Wifi calls between their members for free. But oneFone's presence application, where you can see if your friends are online for free on net calls, really works. Other than Truphone which recently had to disable the presence feature in their client because "it was hammering the servers and becoming less reliable as more people upgraded and began to use it".

John O'Prey told me some more points which "distinguish oneFone not just from Truphone, but all providers who use the Nokia client":
  • oneFone is a self developed and wholly owned stand alone VoIP client and Works in all Nokia E and N Series phones
  • Presence is fully supported and operational
  • Support for automatic roaming between WLAN and 3G
  • Automatic selection of best Internet Access Point
  • oneFone works in far more NATed environments than the Nokia client
  • Adhoc conference support coming in a few days

By not relying on Nokia's own VoIP client they circumvent the mobile incumbents' agreement to lock down alternative VoIP providers. A smart move.

But would I really recommend oneFone? Not necessarily.

£15.99 / €11.99 / £7.99 per Month is quite a lot of money for Wifi phone calls from a mobile, given the fact that Truphone gives nearly the same countries for free until the end of 2007. And with VoIP from Betamax, which you can also install on your Nokia E- or N-Series, you get 120 days of free calls for just €10. My personal costs for mobile and fixed line telephony are together not more than €10 per month, although I am a busy journalist with family in Peru. So people have to think good if they really need Wifimobile's offer. After all it's a normal VoIP flatrate and, e. g., with the bellshare flat you get more or less the same for just €5,99.

Also I think that the proprietary oneFone client could do much more. Look at what they do at Eteleon! Their wiFon client allows a seamless handover between Wifi VoIP calls and GSM. During a phone call it continuously checks the strength of the Wifi signal. If it drops under a certain point the software tells the Eteleon server to continue the call over GSM. The German webzine Teltarif has tested the handover and was quite pleased. wiFon even gives a free fixed line number from your local area, so that also your friends can save money when they call you on your mobile.

1 comment:

  1. Markus,

    Congratulations on a very well written and informative piece.

    I take your comments on our charges however we have just introduced an add on service for Uk and USA customers who can now call internationally at local rates over normal GSM. This addresses the fact that Wi-Fi is not always accessible and few people have an unlimited data plan.


    John O'Prey


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