Skype, Gizmo or Vonage?

This past weekend my bride was out of town and I invested oh, say, 15 hours in voice over internet protocol (VoIP) testing. It wasn’t pretty and I’d like to share my experience with you in case you’re considering Skype or Gizmo for actual telephone usage.

I was a very early adopter of Vonage back in 2001. At that point I liked it and was pretty pleased with the capability (and promise of being able to take my Vonage ATA box with me, connecting it to any high speed connection, and getting my phone calls).

My all-you-can-eat use in North America, for $24.95, is great but it’s another $9.95 per month for the “soft phone” (an application to use your Vonage number from a computer, say, a laptop in a Wifi-enabled coffee shop or hotel room). Rather than do that, I thought I’d join the other 100 million users (alleged on the Skype site) and use “SkypeOut” minutes to call landlines or mobile phones.

I also thought I’d try the Gizmo Project. Why? Skype is a proprietary protocol and Gizmo leverages the Session Initiation Protocol (called “SIP”) and there is a huge amount of energy around it…though it’s not nearly as mature as Skype and is light years away from Vonage. I can still see how SIP is gathering steam and I spent hours on forums, reading about it, looking at equipment at VoIP online stores, and realizing that — once quality of service issues are worked out — there’s going to be an explosion of SIP products and services.

Purchasing a $10 SkypeOut credit and the same in Gizmo “Call Out” credits, I went to work testing them. Using my high end Logitech headset or my new $179 Jabra Bluetooth headset (when connecting to my laptop) I called friends and family in a wide variety of configuration setups. I even stopped by CompUSA and bought the SkyTone USB phone, thinking I’d plug it in to my laptop and answer calls from it on the road rather than futzing with headsets.

I tried 3 way calling. Conference calling. Dialing out to mobile phones. Setting up simultaneous ringing. All kinds of things. While the quality on Skype or Gizmo was roughly the same (though Gizmo consistently had echo that my other party could hear), it was never good enough for me to consider using it as my primary phone. Skype-to-Skype or Gizmo-to-Gizmo was fine, but most of the use for me would be calling landlines or mobile phones. For that, it sucked.

What about Vonage? Though their customer support is worse than Qwest (the pinnacle of horrible customer service), I consistently found myself hanging up from SkypeOut or Gizmo CallOut and calling back in to the conference call or the other person. I now realize that I’m sticking with Vonage, their quality of service is on-par with traditional, plain old telephone service, and I may even buy some of their stock post-upcoming-IPO.

When I think about how much effort I put into figuring out if either SkypeOut or Gizmo CallOut were ready for prime-time (they’re not), I realize how incredibly simple Vonage has made VoIP and this is what I’d recommend to anyone considering going with this method of telephony.

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4 Comments

  1. Eddie on May 23, 2006 at 9:44 pm

    Your post is too favorable to Vonage just before their IPO and I wonder if you know someone who works at Vonage?



  2. Steve Borsch on May 23, 2006 at 10:05 pm

    Yes it’s a favorable-to-Vonage post. No I know no one who works at Vonage. Also, though I had an opportunity to buy pre-IPO stock (an offer to all customers), I opted not to do so.

    Why? I think they’re incredibly vunerable to disruption. The Skype announcement which came out after this post (free SkypeOut calling to the US and Canada) is one example, and even though the Gizmo Project is lower quality than Skype (and yesterday’s release of v2.0 didn’t help, in my opinion), the SIP ecosystem *will* get going and end up potentially changing the rules of VoIP.

    I encourage *you* to try all three like I did and make your own determination.



  3. Christopher Davis on May 28, 2006 at 9:01 pm

    I, too am currently testing all three and just bought a bluetooth headset. I particularly like the fact that Gizmo Project works under Win/Mac/Linux and the free voicemail and free on-hold music is something I like about it. Like you, I have Vonage, and while I agree I don’t think Gizmo and Skype are *quite there… they are really good!
    I was not happy when I learned that the vonage softphone did not allow you to share your main number. The way I got around that was to simulring my number to my Gizmo number. Since calls TO gizmo are free, I essentially have the same thing as a softphone without the 500 minute restriction and NO monthly fee. (correct me if I’m wrong about the 500 minutes) maybe Vonage only deducts Outbound minutes, but either way, Gizmo is cheaper at $0.01/min in the US. Now if I could just figure out how to set up an Asterisk PBX (easily and cheaply)I think it should be possible to set it up so I could call back to my vonage box with my cell, and have an attendant setup on the Asterisk so I can transfer out to another number…



  4. Fred on April 4, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Are there any specific instructions to hook up a standard Bluetooth earpiece (Plantronics 665) to Vonage on my HP 9010us so that I can use that system hands free without plugging the earphones into the Vonage dongle? Could this be applied in any way to the remote user feature of Vonage from any computer when traveling?



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