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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 prefer to chat via Facebook or email?
In some countries, landlines are already passé, and Canada is inching towards that trend, too (mobile phone use first overtook landlines in this country in 2007).
Here are some options.:
WirelessMany Canadians are ditching their landline in favour 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 in Canada 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.
Skype Not only can you make free calls around the world using popular instant messaging software, such asSkype, but these programs support video calling, too. As long as you have a webcam, which you can pick up for as low as $20, you can make video calls to other people using the same software -- plus some cross-platform support is available, too, including Windows Live Messenger and 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.
Magic Jack Those who use it swear by it. Magic Jack 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. For $20/year you've got unlimited calls to Canada and the U.S. and all incoming calls are free.
Unlicensed Mobile AccessYou might have seen TV commercials or print ads promoting a new service that lets you use a cell phone at home - via your wireless network - and you can talk all you like as it won't count towards your monthly minutes. Rogers' TalkSpot and Fido's Uno both employ a neat technology called Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA), where a call on a supported mobile phone can seamlessly switch from a cellular connection to your wireless network, and vice-versa. Prices start at $15/month for unlimited Canada-wide calls, but check your carrier's website for UMA-supported phones.
Smartphone appsPreviously profiled in the Bucks n' Bytes column, smartphone apps such as NetTalk let you make free phone calls to anyone in Canada and the U.S., including to landlines and mobile phones. It even works with the iPod touch. The catch? You don't get an incoming telephone number - you can only call out to other people. But they don’t need to be using the same app, unlike Skype, FaceTime and others. Audio quality is also spotty: sometimes it's quite clear while at other times the person you're calling might hear their voice repeating like an echo.
ACN digital phoneEndorsed by Donald Trump, the ACN digital phone and service lets you make unlimited calls in Canada and the U.S. --including a video phone option 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 $32.99/month for unlimited calls, with a 2-year commitment. Be forewarned, however, ACN is also a multilevel marketing (MLM) company, so you might be pitched to sell or buy products from your friends.
Voice or Internet Protocol (VOIP) service For as low as $20 you can use a VoIP service like Vonage - one of the first such services in Canada - to call friends and family in Canada and the U.S. for 500 minutes (or $29.95 for unlimited calls). And you can use your existing phone, select an area code of your choice and all your monthly extras – such as call-waiting, voicemail, and so on – are all free. Calls are also free between Vonage customers whether they’re in England, Canada or the U.S. All you need is a high-speed Internet connection and Vonage Phone Adapter that's provided for free when you sign up. As with Magic Jack, you can also bring that adapter when you travel to make or receive calls.
Bonne Chance! Paola