Posted by: Olga Kharif on February 21, 2006
I just trialed NetZero Voice, a Skype-like VoIP service that’s pretty good. It allows you to make calls from your PC no matter whether you have satellite, dial-up or broadband connection to the Internet. Just as is the case with Skype, PC-to-PC calls between NetZero customers are free, and you pay extra for PC-to-phone calls.
And NetZero has several features that Skype doesn’t. NetZero comes with a free e-mail account, for example. Naturally, you also get free voicemail, free caller ID, free call waiting and call blocking. Plus, you can see a log of the calls you made online, and listen to your voicemails online. All of these features are very easy to use. You also get a free phone number when you sign up.
Just like with Skype or any Instant Messenger service, you download a piece of software onto your PC to get going. The download takes less then a minute. Then, you walk through an installation set-up, which is pretty quick. The sound quality of the service, once it was up and running, was better than Skype’s. A lot better.
And I loved the features. If you choose one of NetZero's payment plan options, you can receive alerts of voicemails on your mobile phone and get calls forwarded to you. Essentially, you'll get a set a features and functionalities you've come to expect from your traditional phone. As popular as Skype is, that service still feels more like an IM service rather than a phone replacement service to me.
That said, NetZero Voice lacks some of Skype's features, such as video-calling capabilities. NetZero will also likely end up being more costly to use (if you do end up using PC-to-phone calling, that is) than Skype. NetZero's phone plans range from free to $14.95 a month.
Yet, overall, I liked NetZero better than Skype for one simple reason: While Skype still feels to me like a service designed for geeks, NetZero is easier to use and has more of a mainstream appeal (at least that's what I think). What's your opinion?