Thursday, November 5, 2009

blackberry international calling - vonage mobile is not the way

This is quickly turning into blackberry-oriented blog - well, it would not be forever, but please bear with me as I fine-tune my device. Look for cost- and time-saving tips on calling in future posts.

On my unit, I use T-Mobile service, which allows to make free calls to US numbers via wi-fi connection - so-called UMA protocol. This is nice feature to use when calling to US when travelling -- you drink your coffee sitting outside somewhere by the sea, all while causally chatting to your friends sitting in their cubicles tied to Meridian switches.

But what about calling to non-US numbers? One solution I have right now is Telna mobile - a contract SIM card from calling card provider, previously called 3U Telecom, which integrates GSM SIM toolkit to intercept calls and convert them into callback to your number, then establish a conference to your destination. Rates depend only on country of residence, which is very budget-friendly (See telna mobile web site for details.) But what about a solution which does not require me to swap a SIM card (my blackberry serves me with email as well, and I do not want to carry two phones)?

There are calling card programs -- one is called berrydialer (costs $20 but a cent) and anoher is free, installs in Options screen, and written by Titas Raha (somebody who was born in India, lives in US, and calls a lot.) I would try it later. (Update: it works great!)

I had used two voip carriers, Vonage and Broadvoice; the latter is priced lower, and allows use of SIP software phones, multiple registration points, and customer own equipment. I recommend Broadvoice to everybody who travels a lot and/or makes many international calls; the only problem with them is changing credit card on file now requires submission of authorization form with passport and credit card photocopy; fraud department policy I suppose. But this is a separate device (voip adapter plus regular phone handset, or computer.) As far as I know, nobody makes softphone app for blackberry. Perhaps there would be a truly integrated Google Voice application soon?

I had a phone number with Vonage since 2002; I was actually going to transfer it to Broadvoice (LNP now works, and one can even submit LOA elecronically with them.) When visiting their site, I found that they now offer separate Vonage Mobile service for Blackberry and iPhone. It is a prepaid account (auto-refill by credit card) which intercepts calls from phone UI, calls their US number, and conferences outbound calls in. Pretty convenient.

Well, the application is nothing but an brightly-orange disaster (yes, this is a color it uses to fill entire screen while placing an international call.) Sorry, but I prefer standard one - which shows clock, unread message count, volume and speakerphone indicators, etc. Here is a list of deficiences:

-- It does not detect call termination (hang-up) on remote end. So bad it is, I left it running for half an hour.

-- It does not work with conference calling, or call hold. Probably due to substitution of native UI with its own.

-- Did I mention bright orange?

-- It displaced my Google maps application in "Downloads" folder (overlapped with its icon position).

-- It requires reboot immediately after install, disabling native UI prompt (now or later.)

-- It does not have a "disable" option (for example, when I use local SIM card in my phone.)

-- they give you a trial credit of one dollar (nice), but every time I launch the application, it asks me if I want to refill. Nonetheless, the web site UI for adding credit card is broken (I use Firefox on Mac OS.)

-- After manual deletion of application through Options | Advanced options | Applications, and reboot, I found that my device generates exceptions during boot, and none of my email messages could be opened (application hangs.) To properly get rid of it, one have to delete the module too, see this advice on crackberry forums.

Thanks Vonage, just another reason for me to part ways with you.

1 comment:

  1. Update: thank you Titas Raha - your little program works like a charm!