Fantastic Phone Services for People on the Go

by Sasha A. Rae on 8 February 2010 6 comments
Photo: redmal

You’re ready to hit the road, but you’re not sure how to stay connected while you’re out there. Or you just rolled back into town after a stint abroad and haven’t hooked up your cell service yet. You don’t have to. There are so many options for staying hooked up phone-wise whether you’re at home or on the road, especially if you tend to bounce between places that have different cell phone coverage areas. Or none at all.

Before you invest in a pricey cell phone plan, check out some of these phone services. They can save you a pretty penny and keep you connected anywhere you go.

RingCentral

One good one is RingCentral, which gives you a phone, fax, calling card, and local or toll-free number all in one. Once you sign up for a service, you can program your 800 number to ring up to four separate phones looking for you. So it can ring a home number, a work line, a cell phone, or any number that you’re at while on the road. This is especially useful when you travel out of cell phone range, but need to receive some calls. Another cool feature is internet faxing and email voice message notifications. Downside? The 800 numbers and calling card function only work in the U.S.

eVoice

Another stellar option if you’re mobile, but need to get your calls, is eVoice. With some of the same features that RingCentral offers, eVoice also lets you receive email or text notifications of voicemail messages. You can also get a local or toll-free number and have it track you down. No faxing available, though.

Phone.com

Phone.com is a great one too. With different greeting options for before and after business hours, voicemail, unlimited minutes, and call routing, Phone.com can help you present a big business image even if you’re a one-person operation. Plus, it’s easy to grab or receive voicemail messages no matter where you are, and you can do three-way conference calls too. Not a bad option for a small business or an entrepreneur who travels a lot.

Google Voice

The newest technology out in this area is Google Voice, which offers free phone services on your current number. You can have voicemail messages transcribed and sent to you via email or SMS. It also gives you custom greeting options and a lower price on international calls. Google Voice integrates so well with your Gmail account and makes it simple to keep connected from anywhere. Downside? It’s offered by invitation only, so you’ll need to sign up and wait to be contacted before you can use it.

Vonage

If you’re sticking around town and need a super cheap, but wonderfully functional, phone service, check out Vonage voice over IP services. While the other plans mentioned are strictly U.S.-based and focus on domestic calling, Vonage is a good bet if you chat a lot with people overseas because it gives you unlimited minutes for calls to landlines in over 60 countries. You do have to have DSL and a regular phone to use it.

Skype

And then there’s Skype, which gives you free unlimited chat time from your computer to theirs. And you can use web cams or have conference calls. Downsides? Skype gets mighty expensive when you use it to dial someone directly and you have to schedule the calls you make over the computer.

Prepaid Cell Phone

If all else fails, there’s always the prepaid cell phone. The main drawback is that you lose the number if you cancel the service instead of rolling it over to another plan. With the others, you can pay less and keep the same number for years. And there’s rarely a hefty cancellation fee. Plus, even a minimal plan from RingCentral or Vonage will cost you less than a typical cell phone plan.

So sign up and get talking. Your peeps need you.

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Guest's picture
Guest

Sooo. How do you not have to pay a cell plan or home phone plan with phonecentral? How do you receive calls on your cell in a deadzone with this vs a normal cell service?

Most of these are not cost savers unless you use an internet connection as your phone plan.

Guest's picture

Great article, Sasha. Although, not a mobile product, I would love to hear your thoughts on MagicJack.

Sasha A. Rae's picture

@Isaac -- Thanks! And thanks for the tip on MagicJack. It looks like it would be easier and more economical to use than Skype. I wonder how the sound quality is.  Have you tried it?

Guest's picture
Mikal

As far as I can tell, all the services named require that you pay a fee (monthly for most of them) except Google Voice which is currently free as noted in the article.

I can't see how any of them would be very useful if you didn't have some kind of phone service to begin with.

Sasha A. Rae's picture

@Guest and @Mikal -- Definitely good points. Many of the services are tied to the Internet and most do charge fees. However, a service such as RingCentral or Phone.com can be invaluable for some people. For instance, 

-- if you are a small business owner or freelancer who already has a personal phone service and wants a business line without the cost of another full cell phone service plan or land line;

-- if you move overseas and don't want to keep your regular phone service in the U.S., but still want to have a consistent number (either local or toll-free) for clients and contacts to call; or

-- if you travel in the U.S. and end up in a remote area that has neither cell phone service nor Internet access (It's happened to me!). In that case, you can dial in to get your voicemail and you can use the number as a calling card to call out. All you need is access to a working pay phone.

Each service has pros and cons. It all depends on what your needs are.

Guest's picture

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