There’s no doubt that technology has radically changed our lives over the past few decades. Nowhere is this truer than in the area of telephones. Not so long ago, the only way you could make a phone call from home was by using a phone that was hardwired into your wall and allowed you to move away from it while talking only as far as its coiled cord would stretch. All that has changed. Now you likely use a cellphone that lets you talk or text on it anywhere in your home, your office, even unfortunately in your car. But are you getting the best value on your current cellphone? Should you switch to VoIP?
VoIP is an acronym that stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. What this means is that phone calls you make or receive on a VoIP phone rely on the internet to convert your voice and that of the person(s) with whom you’re speaking into little data packets that go back and forth over the internet before being converted back to voice by your phone. This makes for faster transmission of both voice and data while probably saving you considerable money in the process.
Before you make the decision to convert your current smartphone into a VoIP phone, however, you need to be aware of the VoIP advantages and disadvantages. So let’s look at a few.
VoIP technology offers you numerous advantages. including the following:
- Decreased phone costs
- Complete portability; i.e., the ability to keep your same phone number when you move or switch phones
- The ability to choose a virtual number using the area code of your choice
- Caller ID
- Call forwarding
- Call waiting
- Conference calling
- Multitasking; i.e., the ability to send photos, documents, videos, etc. at the same time you’re talking
One of the best things about VoIP is that you can convert any smartphone into a VoIP smartphone simply by using an app, many of which are free. Others can be had for a very low cost.
With all of its advantages, VoIP nevertheless has a few disadvantages, including the following:
- Need for continuous internet and power supply
- Bandwidth dependency
- Occasional decreased voice and call quality
- Possible security issues
- Possible emergency call problems
Since by definition VoIP sends information over the internet rather than by the means of copper wires or cellphone towers, you must be connected to the internet in order to use a VoIP phone. In addition, your internet service must provide you with sufficient bandwidth to handle not only your phone calls but also whatever online activities you and your family members may be engaging in at the same time such as surfing the web, downloading documents, gaming, watching videos, etc.
It goes without saying that the more bandwidth you have, the better the quality of your phone calls and the sound of your voice to your caller and his or hers to you. You may need to go to a higher bandwidth internet plan. While each VoIP phone needs only about 100 kbps (kilobits per second) of upload and download capacity, don’t forget that each of your computers, tablets, etc. also has its own bandwidth needs. If your family does a lot of gaming, for instance, this takes about 12 Mbps (megabits per second) down and 6 Mbps up. Streaming video requires at least 5 Mbps. Consequently, if you live in an area where high-quality internet reception is poor or spotty, VoIP probably is not for you.
As with any decision you make, you should carefully weigh the upsides of VoIP against its downsides before making the switch. It all comes down to how you use your phone and the things you want to be able to do with it.