Fed up with Skype? Here Are 6 of the Best Free Alternatives

For a long time, Skype was the world leader when it came to VoIP apps. It was so popular, in fact, that “Skyping” became a verb. But with so many complaints of low quality calls, too many crashes, and a general distrust of Microsoft, for many, Skype lost its appeal, despite its recent overhauls.

Since Skype’s heyday, however, many other apps have launched that enable you to call others from your devices. If you’re fed up with Skype then, you might want to try these alternatives.

For something much simpler than Skype, a service like Appear.in might be for you. If you want something with even more features, try out Viber. And then there are all the options in between.

1. Google Hangouts (Web, Android, iOS)

A direct competitor to Skype, offering free user-to-user calls and (mostly) free calls within the U.S. and Canada.

Since its launch just a few short years ago, Google Hangouts has rapidly grown to rival Skype in terms of user numbers while, according to many, surpassing Skype’s call quality.

While you could use Hangouts as just another messaging app, that’s the last thing we need. It’s first-and-foremost a way for you to voice and video call up to 10 contacts (simultaneously) on iOS, and Android. The regular Google Hangouts Web app is pretty impressive, too. On your smartphone, this works over data (or Wi-Fi if you’re connected), so calls over Hangouts do not use any of your included minutes.

The contacts that Google Hangouts adds to your account can be both from your phone contacts, and your email contacts. If those contacts are Google Hangout users, you can call them entirely for free. You can call landlines and mobiles from Hangouts, too.

Almost all calls to Canada and the US are entirely free from any country where Hangouts is available. To make other calls though, you’ll have to add some credit to your account., and pay a relatively small per-minute call charge.

2. Appear.In (Web, iOS)

One of the easiest ways to start a voice or video call. No sign ups, no downloads.If you want an incredibly simple way to start a call, Appear.in is what you’re looking for. You don’t need to sign up to anything. You don’t even need to download anything! There is an iOS app, though, if you’re interested.

Simply create a “Room” link, and share that link with whoever you want to chat with (up to eight people). When a recipient clicks the link, the room will open in their browser (this works on mobile, too).

You can choose to either have a voice or video call, and you can also share your screen. And if you’re worried about privacy, you can “lock” your call to prevent anyone else from joining if they somehow found your unique link.

3. ooVoo (Web, Android, iOS, Windows, Mac)

Like WhatsApp, you can make domestic and international calls too.

Like a lovechild between WhatsApp and Skype, ooVoo is a free cross platform (Android, iOS, Windows, Web) app that allows free calls to other ooVoo users, and paid calls to landlines and mobiles. It’s group video calls are of particularly high quality, which is the main reason it’s included in this list.

If you start a Web-Based ooVoo chat, up to 12 people can join for free, without signing up or downloading anything. All you have to do is send them a unique link. All calls can be recorded, and screens can be shared.

It’s unlikely many of your contacts use the app, but if they do, it also doubles up as a messaging app, where you can record and send text messages and videos. It’s basically like WhatsApp, but also allows calls to landlines and web-based calls to non-users.

5. Talky (Web, iOS)

Like Appear.In, an extremely easy way to host a group video chat. No download required.

Just like Appear.in, Talky sells itself as “a truly simple video chat [with] screen sharing for groups”.

Again, simply pick a room name, get a unique URL, then share this URL with up to 15 people. The call is then accessible via each person’s browser (or via the iOS app).

Once a call is live, you can easily turn your webcam or microphone on and off, and chat via text. Once everyone’s online, you can also lock the call for extra privacy.

And again like Appear.In, you can’t use Talky to make international or domestic calls.

6. Voca (Android, iOS)

Free user-to-user calls, and some of the cheapest international calls on the market.

Working through your Wi-Fi or data connection, Voca gives you extremely easy access to very affordable international calls to over 230 countries. For instance, U.S.-to-U.S. calls to landlines and phones cost $0.001. You can find full rates on Voca’s site.

If your friends and family are also using the app, then text, voice, and video calls are completely free, though the app will use your data if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi. For the security conscious, all calls and messages are encrypted.

And, The App You Know About: WhatsApp

Free voice or video calls to any other WhatsApp users (on mobile). But no calls to anyone who’s not on WhatsApp.And then we have WhatsApp (and its security-obsessed alternatives). Although the app is available on Android, iOS, Windows, Desktop, and Web, WhatsApp calls are only available on Android, iOS and Windows.

It’s popularity in the U.S., Canada, Europe (and elsewhere) has seen the app attract over one billion users. At first, the app was mainly just for messaging your friends. Now it’s grown to also offer voice and video calling. These calls are made via your data plan, not over your network (so you may be charged for using data, but not your included minutes).

When using WhatsApp’s call features, you can only call other WhatsApp users (one person at a time, no group calls). If they don’t have WhatsApp, you can easily send them an invite.

Will You be Abandoning Skype?

Although Skype is usually the default option for calls over the internet, there are many great alternatives out there. These range from the super simple, to the feature-rich, with plenty in between.

Do you think any of these will be good enough for you to start moving away from Skype?

If so, what frustrated you so much about Skype to make you start searching for alternatives?

Originally written by Joel Lee on Sep 7, 2012.

Thanks a million times

To everyone who reads and follows this blog, i would like to personally say thanks a million for all your support. 2016 was quite slow especially on the frequency of updates for this blog but we continue to provide you with the best in the development world. We believe information is a necessity and everyone is entitled to good quality information; so from myself and team, we wish you happy holidays and  profitable new year.

cheers

ICT the game changer in development

Today I had a chance to attend the Vodafone Power Talks conference organized in Kampala. The conference had focus on ict innovations in the health and the impact they had in Africa. Noticing the many innovations shared I was pretty impressed as some could be taken on in other sectors. Among the most interesting things was how mhealth and mvaccine have reduced the time lag for patients to access information from doctors and viceverse. This indeed has enabled greater improvements in health in Uganda and Africa wide. Ict indeed is the future though faced with challenges especially issues of poor network/connectivity and moving to scale in the rural areas. Secondly ICT4Dev is still limited to mobile phones and limited use of other gadgets like computers and laptops. I feel ICT is the game changer even with the limitations, it’s still the way to go.

Innovative communication

During one of the board meetings at my organization, i was tasked to come up with communication strategies that would push our organization to the “world map” and improve its image both in the country and the world at large.  From experience this would be easy to do  since the organization has a website and information is frequently shared,  however this doesn’t do the trick.  I started thinking of innovative ways that would push  for  increased the web view statistics and also  learning within and outside the organization which led me to a simple innovative guide that helped me plan effectively .

In an article published in the guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk ) a panel of experts gave fifteen ways on the need for communication  in aid work and how to get it right.  These include:

People engage best with people, not abstract issues: Single case-study stories done properly can illustrate wider issue in a real, accessible and relevant way. But most information gathering is NOT geared to this. Most programmes gather information to populate their log frame KPIs in a very static and lifeless way.

Communicate the difference people can make: As a fundraiser, what motivates supporters is communicating the difference people can make to a problem. That means showing the need with the opportunity for improvement. The spirit and dignity of people is part of that.

Be honest about your own agenda: Charities choose who to show solidarity towards depending on their own agenda, and fund according to their priorities. When a campaign is focused on complicated policy outcomes without adequate attention to how they are relevant to people, people can’t see how they can engage.

Celebrities can help capitalise on news coverage: Very few issues, countries or organisations stay on top of the news agenda for long, but the use of celebrities is one way of tapping into it. The responsibility of each group is to do their jobs and make sure they don’t make anything worse than it already is, but I’d see celebrity involvement for what it is: helpful, high impact and potentially catalytic, but not a substitute for many other aspects of an organisation’s or individual’s goals.

Agencies should adapt to aid’s increasing insignificance: While still being significant to people, aid is less so for economies with the emergence of other means of development such as remittances. Unless agencies adapt they will find themselves tumbling down the hierarchy. One of my colleagues Andrew Rogerson even said they face an ‘existential threat‘.

Find a private sector partner: Recruit one company as your champion, so it can push your cause among peers. It can be useful to give them a platform to make the announcement that they’re changing their policies or donating funds, for example.

Strategic communications can change policy: For example, the Global Monitoring Report released new figures on the state of education in Pakistan in October last year and used the figures to campaign in the press in the aftermath of the tragic shooting of Malala. The statistics were picked up by Pakistani politicians and by Gordon Brown in his role as UN special envoy. This media work contributed to the country making the positive decisions it did to find more funds for education and passing the free education bill.

Monitor everything: Integrating communications and continually monitoring progress and impact can be really useful. You can start to pull out what worked and what didn’t and adjust your approach accordingly. It’s also a great opportunity to look back at what could have been done to increase impact.

Know your audience: Research is key to clearly identify target audience, where they get their information from and how they communicate. It’s then possible to tailor your message and test it, but don’t assume people will get it.

Be led by people in relevant countries: International campaigning can support this and can help to tackle the international issues of the role of outside governments and corporations, but is never enough on its own.

Shift from compassion to solidarity campaigning: Corporate tax dodging is wrong because failure of multinationals to pay their taxes in Zambia means that the country is deprived of the money needed for schools, health and support to farmers. But the same tax dodging also hurts people in the west. So the campaign against tax dodging isn’t a north-south let’s help them thing – it’s a together-we-are-powerful 99% thing.

Select the relevant data: One cannot reasonably paint the whole picture and hope to be targeting the right audience. The hard balance to find is between saying what pays off and sticking with the whole story you are supposed to tell. Our utmost concern as communicators should be to ensure the integrity of our message and that it is in sync with our mission. We owe that transparency to our audiences and donors.

Do more with less by being inventive: Particularly for small NGOs, a lack of resources can be a big obstacle effective communications. Overcome this by drawing on freelancers, opening competitions among students, daring to ask for pro bono, being efficient in your use of social media to relay your messages and finding synergies with strategically-chosen partners. That will be the best way to convince a disapproving majority.

Face the critics: It is fair to raise concerns about the way that aid can be misused or misguided, or ask whether it’s right to ring-fence development aid. More aid organizations should openly explain their case and stand up for what they believe in.

Listen to people on the ground: I think it’s important to talk with the people you have working on the ground and hear from them what the real problems are/what’s needed, before you get round the table in HQ and devise the comms tools to suit. Don’t assume you already know the answer, because things are rarely as simple as they seem.

20 liters a day

For many people there is not a day that goes by without using water. We take a shower in the morning, make coffee during breakfast, clean our clothes in the washing machine and wash our hands after using the bathroom. Can you imagine a day without water? I sure can’t… In Uganda an average household uses 20 liters per person per day. What we don’t realize every time we open the tap is that water isn’t available in all parts of the country. The lack of clean water usage leads to a lot of hygiene related health problems.

A life changer

In Uganda millions of people have access to a mobile phone. For Ugandans mobile phones seem to be more than a device used to communicate, rather they are a way of life. One single text message can make a big difference. Why not use this knowledge to improve the hygiene and access to sanitation facilities?

In 2013 NETWAS Uganda partnered SMSONE to set up their first SMS campaign in Bombo through the DANIDA funded good governance project. Here water users are able to communicate with the service provider through a sms text. So the initiative has reached over a hundred people who are able to send an sms through the toll free numbers.

Communication as a tool to enforce behaviour change

It is widely accepted that one the major challenges of the 21st century is to provide safe drinking water and basic sanitation for all. And yet governments continue investing a lot into research and implementation in the WASH sector and at both district and sub county level. The big question then arises ‘Why ain’t we making any progress?’ A Water Aid report reveals that countries like Uganda has achieved only 34 per cent access to basic sanitation compared to the required 72 per cent by 2015. This means that more than half of the Ugandan population lack access to basic sanitation facilities.

In many of the African countries like Uganda there is still big challenge to harmonize culture and the new ideas that keep cropping up each and every day. You realize that each of these new ideas is aiming at ensuring better and sustainable improved ways of living. For example the idea of mobile phones for WASH seems always manipulating, according to some communities and yet it looks at promoting effective communication, CLTs is the other initiative which has worked in many communities to eradicate ODF and still yet  many feel it hasn’t been successful.  Everything comes down to communication. When we communicate we use a lot more than just the verbal message that we want to get across. Often we don’t pay attention to the way we present ourselves, just as important as the verbal message is the non-verbal communication. Behavioural change is always the most important goal of our communication. Therefore before coming up with any community initiative, one has to design behaviour change strategy which should include:

  • Research and proper planning
  • Knowing the needs of the population

Different target groups will require different approaches. Therefore, when making decisions about which target groups and which factors to address, it is necessary to consider:

  • which target groups are most vulnerable;
  • which risk / vulnerability factors are most important;
  • which factors may be related to the impact of conflict and displacement;
  • which target groups and risk / vulnerability factors the community wants to address;
  • what could be motivators for behavior change;
  • what could be barriers to behavior change;
  • what type of messages will be meaningful to each target group;
  • which communication media would best reach the target group;
  • which services/resources are accessible to the target group;
  • which target groups and risk / vulnerability factors are feasible in terms of  expertise, resources and time.

Communicating more effectively today

Being able to communicate effectively is essential in every career. As recruiters will tell you, it’s a skill coveted by employers. However, the ability to communicate well goes beyond being able to express yourself. It’s more than giving a compelling presentation or writing a solid report. It’s part of the talent for developing interpersonal relationships.

Communication plays a part whether you’re trying to generate sales, participate successfully on a team, or simply get along with your office-mates. It’s particularly important when it comes to cultivating relationships with significant people like your boss.  The repercussions of poor communication can range from continual team conflicts to poor performance reviews.

One of the reasons we run into problems is because we like to communicate differently.  As you may already know our communication style depends a lot on our personality preferences which is explored using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Not surprisingly there’s a big difference between Extroverts and Introverts. Generally, Introverts prefer to communicate via email so they have time to digest the information they’ve received and gather their thoughts before responding to others. On the other hand, Extroverts who often “think out loud” would rather pick up the phone.

Somewhat surprisingly, communication styles are not that different between generations according to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder. The company surveyed two groups of managers and workers – one group aged 25 to 34 the other group aged 55 and over.  The majority of respondents from both groups said they preferred face-to-face communication, while a relatively small percentage said they preferred the phone. Although ranking a distant second to in-person conversations, respondents ranked digital communication, email or text, the next-best option. Unfortunately, the survey did not distinguish between a preference for text as opposed to email.

Of course, when it comes to communication there are gender differences as well. Men tend to focus more on what’s being said. Women frequently pay attention to more subtle messages like body language which is something to think about when you’re sitting in all those meetings. Be sure to listen to what’s being said and how people are saying it.

The bottom line is that when it comes to communicating effectively you need to think about the other person’s preferred style. If your favorite client always emails questions you might want to email your response even if you’d rather pick up the phone. If your boss generally sends texts you may want to adopt that as well. On the other hand, if your boss leaves you a voice mail you may not want to reply with a text.

One of the keys to successful communication is to use the other person’s preferred style. What if you’re not sure? It’s simple. Just ask.