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Maybe you’ve heard the phrase ‘Voice over Internet Protocol’ — otherwise known as VoIP. If not, I’m sure you’ve heard of a Skype call, right?
I had heard about VoIP some years ago, but I didn’t think much about it at the time. I mean… I’ve got a cell phone. I’ve got plenty of free roaming minutes each month. And I’ve even got extra data coming out of my ears. Jim does too.
BUT… some of our friends and relatives don’t!
So it made sense when a friend of ours recently asked us to sign up with Skype (for free) so we could have a Skype call with him at length about a tricky computer issue he was having.
I’m not kidding when I say that in less than 5 minutes we were up & running, and eager to explore all that Skype has to offer. But just then, our friend “Skyped us” (a.k.a. phoned us) — before we could even think of what to do next — it’s that quick!
TIP: If someone knows your email address, they can look you up and arrange a quick & easy Skype phone call.
Here’s some helpful information about Skype, its uses you might not have thought of, and some alternatives to Skype that have recently joined the tech scene.
So, you know how I like to find ways to use products other than for their intended purpose, right?
Did you realize that Skype can also be used as an intercom?!
How To Use Skype As An Intercom
Jim and I use it on a daily basis as an intercom to buzz each other whenever we need to ask the other person a quick question — when we’re working on separate computers in separate rooms of the house.
We recently moved Jim from our shared office (in the bonus room with me) to his own office (in one of the spare bedrooms) down the hall. But for some reason, we have a hard time hearing when the other one asks a question or something — when we just shout to each other. I guess it’s because my TV is on, and his music is on, and we’re both focused on our computer work.
Thanks to Skype, I just click his name (in my Skype address book) and his computer starts “ringing.”
His Skype address book automatically pops up and shows him who’s calling. At which point, he clicks once to answer and start talking to me.
Isn’t that the coolest?!
How Skype Works
It runs in the background (we have ours set to load automatically every time we start the computer), and whenever someone’s trying to reach you, your Skype address book pops up so you can see who’s calling.
You can choose to answer it (or not) simply by clicking on the icon. From there, you just start talking… into thin air!
Here are some benefits of having a Skype call:
- There’s no annoying “delay.”
- You don’t have to wait for the other person to finish talking before you start talking — so it’s really “live” and you can talk all over each other and interject freely throughout the conversation as much as you want!
- Only people who know your email address can call you.
- You can block certain people from calling you, if you want to.
All you need to take full advantage of Skype is a cheap microphone — they range from $3 to $20. You can use either a desktop microphone
Why Skype Is So Great
With Skype, calling computer-to-computer is 100% FREE. There’s no catch.
No annoying ads. No spyware or adware. Nothing. One of our friends uses it to chat regularly with a friend of his who just moved to Poland… it’s FREE 24/7!
Skype’s voice quality surpasses that of a landline phone — it’s CD quality. Source
The best part: it’s the ultimate in “hands-free phone calling.”
What does that mean for you?
- View the same websites in real time – View the same website that the other person is looking at and chat about what you see there. (An easy way to share something cool that you’ve found with someone else!)
- Enhanced multitasking – Work on the computer while you’re talking to someone else “on the phone.”
- Real-time instruction – Browse the Internet together, looking at the same things on your computers at the same time. (Great if you’re asked to explain to a computer novice how to do something on their computer!)
- Chat from anywhere you have a connection – Recline in your favorite chair (or anywhere with an Internet connection) and chat for hours with someone on a Skype call without having to watch the clock.
When you use Skype to send or receive a phone call from your computer, there’s nothing to press. Nothing to click.
There are also no limits to how long you can talk, and no restrictions on who you can call!
Other Things You Can Do With Skype
Skype is similar to IM (instant messaging) in that it’s interactive and “live” — direct connect. In fact, Skype also has its own “live online chat” function that makes it just like IM (but easier).
Skype was launched by Niklas Zennstrom who co-founded the Kazaa P-to-P file sharing service. Source
Here are some other great reasons to use Skype:
- File sharing – Use the Skype chat feature to share files with someone else, or use it like an FTP program to push large files to another person’s computer. (They must “approve” files from you, and vice versa.)
- Conference calling – By simply clicking the name of someone else in your Skype address book, you can have a conference call with up to 5 people! Yep, you could immediately connect with any other Skype user on-the-fly to involve them in the conversation, too.
- Message alerts for missed calls – With Skype, when a call comes in for you and you’re not at your computer, a little button pops up showing that you missed X number of calls and who they were from, what time they called, etc. It’s too cool!
- Voicemail capabilities – If you want people to leave messages for you, then you can sign up for Skype voicemail.
While the most popular use of Skype at this point is to make calls computer-to-computer (2 people talking to each other from anywhere in the world at their own computers for FREE), you could also call from your computer to any land-line for an additional fee. (It’s called “Skype Out” and it’s very cheap.)
You can also sign up for a Skype phone number to give your friends who don’t use Skype — so they can call you from any phone and ring your computer. (It’s called “Skype In” and it comes with free voicemail service.)
The prices listed for Skype’s add-on features are in Euros. Use this converter to determine U.S. dollars.
Best Free Alternatives To Skype
If you have an aversion to Microsoft-owned software, or you just like the idea of trying out something new, there are a few other ways to get a free Internet phone.
These alternatives let you communicate with people on a variety of platforms — both mobile and desktop — so there’s plenty of choice in the world of messaging and VoIP services.
Here are a few alternatives to Skype:
- Viber – Free text messaging and video calls for desktop and mobile.
- WhatsApp – A hugely popular Skype alternative, but free voice chat is exclusive to iPhone users for now.
- Talky – Free, browser-based chat for up to 15 people – no dedicated software required.
- WeChat – A free replacement for your usual call and messaging apps, with web and desktop versions.
- ooVoo – Fun video chat with emoji and stickers, but watch out for the in-app purchases.
More Skype Call Information
In addition to the links I’ve included above, here are a few more helpful resources about Skye, VoIP phone service, and other options for Internet phone calls:
- Skype Video Call Tips
- Snapchat vs. Skype: Which One Is Better?
- What’s The Difference Between Facebook & Skype?
- Cheap And Easy Internet Phone Calls
- How Skype Allows Free Video Calls Video Calls
- The Official Skype Blog
I got my first computer in 1986 and immediately started writing, saving documents, and organizing my entire life on it. Thus began my love affair with gadgets and all things tech. I built my first website in 1998 in old-school HTML code — before websites were "a thing". Blogs weren't invented yet. It was the same year that Google was born. My husband and I created TheFunTimesGuide.com in 2004 — before YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, and Mashable were launched. That was the year Facebook started and 'blog' was the Word of the Year according Merriam-Webster. Ever since then, anytime a new electronic gadget hits the market… I have to have it. (My husband's impulsive nature to try out every new tech gadget invented is even worse than mine!) When I'm not trying out fun new tech gadgets, you'll find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites).