The top three apps for communicating around the world for free
The world is shrinking fast. Not so many years ago, it was relatively rare to place a call to someone overseas – especially if it was a non-business call but for social reasons to a friend or relative.
Nowadays, it has become commonplace. And that is largely thanks to the internet by using something called Voice over Internet Protocol, broadband phone, or IP telephony. As explained by Broadband Choices, by using the internet, voice calls – and video calls – may avoid the use of regular telephone lines altogether. What’s more, it may often be free.
So, what are the top three internet-based apps for communicating around the world for free?
Skype was one of the first apps on the scene, developed in Sweden in 2002. It started out as SKY Peer-to-peer, says History Computer and by way of Skyper, eventually settled on the name Skype. It is currently owned by Microsoft.
Initially, Skype was used exclusively on computer applications and fast became a nightmare competitor for established telephone companies because voice calls could be made between anyone who owned a computer with an internet connection – for free.
As wireless networks have mushroomed, Skype apps have become available on the majority of mobile phones and smartphones. The same principles apply – if both parties have the app and an internet connection, calls are free.
According to the website Expanded Ramblings, some 300 million people used Skype at least once a month in 2019.
For the price of a subscription voice calls by Skype may also be made to standard phone lines. You can currently buy 400 minutes of calls to UK landlines for a monthly subscription of £6 – which works out at 1.5p a minute.
WhatsApp was founded in 2009 as an instant messaging service. Using a contacts list to store mobile phone numbers, the app was more obviously designed for smartphones – although desktop versions of the app are also available.
The principal use of the app is for sending instant messages – which are end-to-end encrypted – between users. But voice and video calls are also widely used on this app. Provided both parties have the free-to-install app on their smartphones, and a mobile connection to the internet, messages, calls and videos are entirely free – to anywhere in the world.
Although it came later to the party than, say, Skype, WhatsApp is now the most popular messaging and voice call service in the world. At the beginning of 2019, it claimed more than 1.5 billion users in 180 countries – 1 billion of whom used the app at least once a day. Users around the world spent a total of 2 billion minutes, making WhatsApp voice and video calls every day, according to Business of Apps.
FaceTime offers practically the same free voice call and video messaging services as both Skype and WhatsApp, but the app is restricted to users of Apple’s iOS iPhones, iPads and iPod touch.
To use FaceTime, therefore, you need an iOS phone, an Apple ID and an internet connection.
Apple remains quite secretive about the number of its customers using FaceTime, but it is widely regarded as the third most popular app for making free calls around the world.
Although its use is limited to Apple users, the company’s iOS is neck and neck with android operating systems in the UK, where Apple’s iOS claims 50% of the market and Android 49.67%, according to StatCounter.
This data used in this article is correct as at the time of writing.