If you're reading this, chances are you've thought about cancelling your landline.
After all, why incur the extra monthly expense when your friends and family call you on your mobile phone anyway? Or perhaps you prefer to chat via email, text or instant messenger?
In some countries, landlines are already passé, and the U.S. is inching towards that trend, too (mobile phone use first overtook landlines in this country back in 2004).
And so here we take a look at more than a half-dozen landline alternatives to save you cash.
Many are ditching their landline in favor of a mobile phone. Perhaps this isn't an ideal scenario when there's a large family at home who needs to make or accept a call (and you're out with the only phone), but it can make sense, and saves cents, for younger, on-the-go types. And with the new carrier competition there are some pretty aggressive wireless rates these days, including unlimited calls and data, for less than the cost of a landline at home in some cases -- especially when you add up the extra features like Caller ID, voicemail, and so on.
Bluetooth cordless phones
Bluetooth-enabled cordless phones can turn your cell phone or smartphone into a home phone. Panasonic, Uniden and Good Call, for example, have Bluetooth-enabled cordless phones that wirelessly connect with your mobile phone when you walk in the door. Then, when a call comes in, your cordless phone will ring. You can also make outgoing calls, too, of course. You can use your mobile phone with an existing landline service, but many people have cancelled their home phone account in favor of being reached with just one number.
Not only can you make free calls around the world using popular instant messaging software, such as Skype, but these programs support video calling, too. As long as you have a webcam, which you can pick up for as low as $10, you can make video calls to other people using the same software -- plus some cross-platform support is available, too, including Yahoo! Messenger. Use text, voice or video to chat, exchange files or have fun with special effects that make it look like you're in a different location or wearing silly apparel.
Those who use it swear by it. MagicJack is a pocket-sized product that turns your computer into an inexpensive landline alternative. YMax Corp.'s $40 device -- promoted on one of those "As Seen on TV" infomercials -- is inserted into an available USB port on your PC and then you plug in a regular telephone jack into the other end and talk via VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology. MagicJack Plus ($70) can be used without a computer. For $20/year you've got unlimited calls to the U.S. and Canada and all incoming calls are free. Porting your existing number costs $20, and then $10 a year after that. The similar Ooma Telo system (pictured here) offers even better audio quality and additional features and services.
Most people are unaware of Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA), a technology that allows a mobile phone to use your home’s Wi-Fi network -- and you can talk all you like for free as it won't count towards your monthly minutes. Ask your carrier if it offers it. Mobile phones seamlessly switch from a cellular connection to your wireless network, and vice-versa. T-Mobile has something similar to UMA called Bobsled direct Wi-Fi calling, and operates on the same principle: using your mobile phone via your wireless network to make free calls in the U.S..
Smartphone apps -- such as Free Calls with MagicJack, Google Talk, NetTalk, Talkatone, Line2 and Viber – all let you make free phone calls to anyone in the U.S. and Canada, including to landlines and mobile phones (some require you to sign up to use a service, like Viber, while others don’t, including the MagicJack app). It even works with the iPod touch. iPhone’s Facebook app and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) on BlackBerry devices also have options to chat for free via Wi-Fi with others. Audio quality can be spotty for all of these apps and services, however.
Endorsed by Donald Trump, the ACN digital phone and service lets you make unlimited calls in the U.S. and Canada and some international markets -- including a video phone called Iris that lets you see who you're talking to in its 7-inch screen. Essentially, ACN uses VoIP (Voice or Internet Protocol) technology that uses your high speed Internet connection instead of a phone line, plus you can keep your phone number, choose another area code and manage your account online. Price for the video phone is $30/month for unlimited calls – including landlines in 70 countries. Be forewarned, however, ACN is also a multilevel marketing (MLM) company, so you might be pitched to sell or buy products from your friends.
Yahoo! Digital Crave readers, do you use any of these alternatives to landlines? Or do you still prefer a "home phone"?