“Hi honey! Guess what I’m doing? I’m calling you for free on my cell phone!”.
I could hardly contain my glee, Janice’s non-commital “that’s nice”, notwithstanding. You see, yesterday I got my grimy mitts on the Nokia N80i — the N-Series smartphone with WiFi and built-in internet telephony support. Plugged in, and charged overnight, it was ready for a test drive this morning. First things first — pop over to http://www.truphone.com/, and install the Truphone client.
Hat’s off to the Truphone team. Installing Truphone is a breeze. Simply text message Tru to the Truphone number. Moments later, over-the-air installation instructions arrive in your inbox. Push the button, and installation is done.
Within a few moments of set up, you receive a second text message with your login information, and a new phone number. It gave me one somewhere in the hinterlands of Washington State — +1-360-488-0654. No Canadian numbers yet.
The TruWiz setup wizard dramatically simplifies the process of configuring an access point, and the SIP client. It allows you to have up to six profiles — two for home, two for office, and two for travel. Pick the one you want, scan for a WiFi network, enter in the security credentials for your network and… you’re done!
After that, any time you’re within range of a WiFi network that you’ve configured, the N80i will display a small icon which appears to be a globe and a phone. When you make a call, simply type the number in, push the options key, and select internet call rather than voice call.
I made a bunch of calls, and had people call me. The calls went from my office WiFi via DSL to the internet, and from there to Truphone’s SIP servers (located, I believe, in the UK), terminating back on a media gateway somewhere in North America. There was the odd bit of lag and jitter, but by and large, the quality was about the same as a cell phone. It was pretty impressive.
Did I mention that it doesn’t cost a cent? At least until the end of March next year, that is.
Truphone has done some other neat things too.
You can receive phone calls on Truphone. Moreover, if you’re not in a WiFi hotspot, Truphone knows to send the call to your cellular phone. And if the phone is turned off, it provides free voice mail.
You can add a presence icon to your website, or email signature. When you’re in a hot spot, it says Call me. If not, it says Forwarded. It would be even cooler if it was click-to-call enabled, but perhaps they’ll get to that next. You can see mine below.
Downsides? Not many. It’s a bit of a battery pig. WiFi radios aren’t nearly as efficient as cellular. After a day of light use, the battery on the N80i was half drained. Overall, though, the experience was great.
Truphone is often compared to Jajah or Rebtel. Both of those companies are also using VoIP to cut into customers cellular bills. Jajah and Rebtel work on any handset, cutting out the long distance carrier in the process. They make long distance calls cheaper, but you’re still paying for local minutes. Truphone only works on a few special WiFi enabled handsets from Nokia, but Truphone makes mobile calls free.