Author Topic: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?  (Read 3787 times)

NestEggChick (formerly PFgal)

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How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« on: September 29, 2015, 12:50:28 PM »
I'd appreciate any tips you guys might have. I have a good idea of the best phone plans for domestic use, but a friend is now looking for a way to get free or very cheap calls from the U.S. (where she lives) to the U.K. (where she's from and a lot of her family and friends are there now.) I suggested Skype for calls (are they free?) but I'd love to know what else she can try. And what about texts?

She has a too-expensive cell phone plan now that she wants to change, and an old Blackberry that she wants to upgrade to an iphone or android. She doesn't want to spend much money. Suggestions?

Thanks for your help!

UnleashHell

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Re: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2015, 01:14:56 PM »
Android phone on t mobile. Theres no roaming charges on tmobile if you go to Europe.

As for contacting them forget texting. Get facebook and use the messenger app. Can be done from the cell phone.
For a landline get Vonage. Its voip and they have an app for android as well. Free calls to UK landlines from the phone and via the app on the phone. Again only to landlines.
Add into this google hangouts and skype and you have it covered.

Ive had Vonage for years now given the amount that my wife talks to her parents in England I can confirm its saved me a fortune.

Exflyboy

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Re: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2015, 01:47:29 PM »
Or you can just use the landline phone feature on Skype.. I pay a couple of dollars a month for a subscription for 120 mins/ month I think.

UnleashHell

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Re: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2015, 01:50:03 PM »
Or you can just use the landline phone feature on Skype.. I pay a couple of dollars a month for a subscription for 120 mins/ month I think.

ha! my wife would burn through that in the first few days of the month... I know - we were using calling cards when we first got here...

Daley

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Re: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2015, 02:26:33 PM »
International SMS is no big deal on many of the "unlimited" domestic talk and text plans from the guide (I'd highly recommend staying with a GSM provider if at all possible, though). P'tel (T-Mobile), H2O Wireless (AT&T), and RedPocket GSMA (AT&T) all include "unlimited" international SMS and some form of direct dialing for international calls with either a fixed included international calling credit or unlimited international calls to UK landlines only. The better deals on these plans start at $30/month.

In your friend's case, I'd probably recommend the H2O $30 plan (free "unlimited" UK landline calling up to 10 unique phone numbers per 30 day billing cycle with auto-disconnect after 60 minutes per call); but calls to mobile numbers will rapidly eat into the $10 international talk credit at roughly 30/minute, which is steep at more than twice the price of everyone else if you fall outside the free credit range on the account, and caps you at roughly 30 minutes of UK mobile calling. Fortunately, it's prepaid, so you can't spend what's not already loaded onto the account. $20 worth of international calling credit can be had at the $40/month plan, which also tosses in an extra 500MB of high speed data and uncapped throttled data for that extra $10 worth of calling credit, but hardly seems worth it to spend $10 just to get an extra 30 minutes of UK mobile talk time.

I'd recommend going H2O due to the bigger service footprint going on AT&T. Of course, if most of the UK calling is going to be mobile number based anyway and there's a data hunger and T-Mobile coverage might work, P'tel might be the better choice at $30/month because you're going to need to work VoIP into the solution to keep the UK mobile calling cheap anyway. Plus, 500 minutes of UK landline calling at 1/minute as provided by P'tel still works out to 8 hours and 20 minutes of talk time.

If your friend is one of those people who thinks they need a fair chunk of data and "unlimited" talk and text anyway, this will be the simplest path with the least amount of technical adaptation... but it also means that it puts the onus on the friends and family back in the UK to pay for their end of global SMS, and/or minutes to call back if need be.

More technical solutions involving VoIP providers and data-based SMS alternatives are covered in the guide as well, but it requires at least a willingness to get a minor bit technical (which if anyone wants a smartphone, they'd better be willing to do anyway). Given the splintered fifedoms of SMS replacements and the availability of unlimited international SMS on these plans anyway, I'll briefly mention Kik and XMS (needs to be installed on both ends), and just leave it at that.

The real gain your friend will get going with an additional app on her phone for calling will be using a LocalPhone account and the Android app. It's easy to set the outbound Caller ID to match your phone number so it's seamless on the receiving callers end for identification, UK mobile rates are 2.3/minute as PAYGO, or there's 200+ minute UK subscription packages starting at $3/month (1.5/minute or less including all mobile)... probably some of the cheapest stand alone UK mobile rates you're going to find anywhere. Plus, the LocalPhone Android app can be set to either make calls over WiFi, 3G/4G (not recommended for data use and lag), or over a local phone number (perfect for "unlimited" calling plans). Of all the cheap international VoIP options, LocalPhone will be one of the cheapest and easiest to integrate without an absolute reliance on data to utilize, and will pair nicely with an "unlimited plan from either H2O or P'tel on an Android device.

As far as handsets go? Depends if she's willing to buy used/refurbished or not. I'd recommend something that's either already able to run Lollipop (5.x) or is well supported by CyanogenMod (but CM is getting into needing far more technical skillsets than installing an app and entering a username and password). I'd also encourage getting a handset that has a user replaceable battery (which eliminates the Moto E/G/X series - I've not been impressed by the lifespan of the Moto E battery, and it's not user replaceable). Whatever she gets no matter what, make sure it's carrier unlocked. You can search by needs/wants/features (including removable battery) here.

If she just wants new and doesn't care about needing to potentially replace the phone with a battery failure, the Moto E might be a good option. If she still wants new and doesn't care about Android security patching but does want a user replaceable battery, there's plenty of Blu handsets that're dirt cheap, such as the Blu Neo 4.5. Otherwise, it might be worth trying to scrounge up a good used Android flagship phone from Samsung, HTC, or LG.

Any other questions, you know where to find me.

Letj

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Re: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2015, 02:31:46 PM »
One word whatsapp - calls are free to anywhere in the world providing that they have a smart phone and the app

Daley

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Re: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2015, 02:46:51 PM »
One word whatsapp - calls are free to anywhere in the world providing that they have a smart phone and the app

This path requires you to let Facebook datamine you even worse than they do already, and it still requires the whole both ends with available data connection at time of call requirements. Some people are okay with both issues, but they're both invasive and inconvenient if you're wanting actual phone number termination (not data reliance) at the other end.



For a landline get Vonage.

Vonage is an absolute screaming ripoff in the VoIP world, sorry.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2015, 02:48:40 PM by I.P. Daley »

UnleashHell

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Re: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2015, 02:55:21 PM »
One word whatsapp - calls are free to anywhere in the world providing that they have a smart phone and the app

This path requires you to let Facebook datamine you even worse than they do already, and it still requires the whole both ends with available data connection at time of call requirements. Some people are okay with both issues, but they're both invasive and inconvenient if you're wanting actual phone number termination (not data reliance) at the other end.



For a landline get Vonage.

Vonage is an absolute screaming ripoff in the VoIP world, sorry.

Really? I talked nicely to them and got them to drop to $15 a month for me.
We have 4 numbers we call a lot. 2 rarely do skype but will do landlines.
One do skype but rarely landlines and never google hangouts
one does google hangouts but can't get skype working and doesn't like the landline.
some of the above are elderly and getting them that far was a struggle. Having the vonage app and being able to call from my cell, my wife call from home and use other devices for google / skype was the best and cheapest combination of solutions.

Well apart from my mother who thinks its fine to use skype to call me at 5am but she's a bit batshit crazy anyway.


Daley

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Re: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2015, 03:17:25 PM »
For a landline get Vonage.

Vonage is an absolute screaming ripoff in the VoIP world, sorry.

Really? I talked nicely to them and got them to drop to $15 a month for me.

Yeah, really. I suspect you're on the North America plan, right? PhonePower has an "unlimited" US and Canada plan for $8.33/month (prepaid per year), you can bring your own ATA or buy one of theirs for $80 (get $80 worth of account credit - net zero ATA hardware and pre-provisioned), and you still get a smartphone app and considerably more account features. Even though they don't do free "unlimited" calls to Mexico on this plan like Vonage does, most of their Mexico termination rates are 0.7/minute. The price gap between PhonePower's annual rate and your cheapest Vonage rate would still give you approximately 11,000 minutes (over 190 hours) of talk time to Mexico per year before PhonePower even matched the expense of what you're paying to Vonage now.

SandyBoxx

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Re: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2015, 06:55:13 PM »
I am in Canada, and make all international calls (via Wi-Fi) using Google Hangouts.  I have never had an issue calling landlines, and the connections have thus far been clearer than if we call each other using traditional phone lines, or mobile to mobile.

Making a Hangouts to Hangouts call does not seem to matter whether it it Android or Iphone, provided both persons have the app installed. 

I am sure there are limitations, but for my basic use thus far, it has been excellent!

okonomiyaki

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Re: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2015, 07:55:37 PM »
Another +1 for Whatsapp - I don't really care about data mining too much, and the call quality/stability is better than skype or google hangouts.

NestEggChick (formerly PFgal)

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Re: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2015, 08:59:10 AM »
As always, you guys are truly awesome. Thanks so much!!! My friend doesn't have an account on the forum yet, but she says a big THANK YOU to everyone so far. If anyone else wants to contribute their thoughts, please do - the more the merrier!

elaine amj

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Re: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2015, 08:19:57 AM »
I don't know about calling the UK ...maybe look unto a voip app? I would search for a virtual number.

I am in Canada and we recently loaded the Freetone app onto my kids' phones (they don't have a SIM card in their phones). They were assigned a local Cdn phone number and can now call/text landlines and mobile lines for free as long as they are on wifi (or using data). It's pretty awesome. We also use Whatsapp and Tango with my family in Malaysia and it's great - but requires the other person to also have the app. Freetone is nice if they want to text/call their friends without making sure they have the same app.

DH is thinking of dropping his phone plan to get a data-only plan and switch to Freetone. It is important for him to have a local Cdn number where his coworkers can call/text him so stuff like Whatsapp don't work.

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Re: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2015, 09:10:19 AM »
I am in Canada and we recently loaded the Freetone app onto my kids' phones (they don't have a SIM card in their phones).

FreeTone/TextMe's generally regarded as one of the lower quality tier hybrid VoIP/SMS options available. Also not knowing the age of your children, I'd just like to point out that their privacy policy forbids usage of the app by children under 13 years of age, partly because of the heinous advertising and datamining the company does through their app. (You get what you pay for, though TextMe does have a non-advertising pay option.)

DH is thinking of dropping his phone plan to get a data-only plan and switch to Freetone. It is important for him to have a local Cdn number where his coworkers can call/text him so stuff like Whatsapp don't work.

If your husband wants something that's still free and datamines the crap out of you, TextNow is the better option to FreeTone/TextMe, and it supports MMS, amongst other things (and they have the option to disable advertising for a small price). Now, I'm instead going to encourage you and your family to embody the idea of genuinely paying for what you need, and not panicking about the price. If contact reliability is needed for your husband, I would recommend against a VoIP over mobile data only plan for technical reasons, not provider reasons... however if you still want to do that, Line2 at $10/month is going to be the most reliable provider to go with for Canadians. Also look into Fongo, which may provide all the local calling you need for free, and provides unlimited SMS messaging for $1.50/month per line... but can still do in-app advertising if you're not giving them money.

(I don't say this to undermine your suggestion, just to let you and others know there are far better options available.)
« Last Edit: October 01, 2015, 10:06:22 AM by I.P. Daley »

elaine amj

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Re: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2015, 10:42:42 AM »
I am in Canada and we recently loaded the Freetone app onto my kids' phones (they don't have a SIM card in their phones).

FreeTone/TextMe's generally regarded as one of the lower quality tier hybrid VoIP/SMS options available. Also not knowing the age of your children, I'd just like to point out that their privacy policy forbids usage of the app by children under 13 years of age, partly because of the heinous advertising and datamining the company does through their app. (You get what you pay for, though TextMe does have a non-advertising pay option.)

DH is thinking of dropping his phone plan to get a data-only plan and switch to Freetone. It is important for him to have a local Cdn number where his coworkers can call/text him so stuff like Whatsapp don't work.

If your husband wants something that's still free and datamines the crap out of you, TextNow is the better option to FreeTone/TextMe, and it supports MMS, amongst other things (and they have the option to disable advertising for a small price). Now, I'm instead going to encourage you and your family to embody the idea of genuinely paying for what you need, and not panicking about the price. If contact reliability is needed for your husband, I would recommend against a VoIP over mobile data only plan for technical reasons, not provider reasons... however if you still want to do that, Line2 at $10/month is going to be the most reliable provider to go with for Canadians. Also look into Fongo, which may provide all the local calling you need for free, and provides unlimited SMS messaging for $1.50/month per line... but can still do in-app advertising if you're not giving them money.

(I don't say this to undermine your suggestion, just to let you and others know there are far better options available.)

I agree - lots of options now which is nice. We're evaluating to see what our needs really are. For my kids, reliability is not a huge issue. Texting has been good while calling is a problem when the wifi is not strong enough. That said, the more I consider it...texting through wifi is likely good enough at present with calling a nice bonus. For their needs at present, Freetone is fine. They haven't found the ads annoying. My daughter primarily uses it to text me with random stuff. It's a nice perk that she can also text her friends (Although she rarely does). My son hasn't found a need for it much at all (he's in Grade 8 and is either at school, where he doesn't take his iPod, or at home where he has the home line). I think it is more convenient for me because I can text them when I want (Whatsapp is having problems with the iPhone 4 and old iPod).

For my husband, we're still considering if something like Freetone is good enough or if we need Fongo or Line2. He is usually at home or at work when his coworkers need to contact him, so call quality should be fine. He can always call them back on the home line if he needs to. Besides, it may be a blessing in disguise if they can't always get him easily? He's a college professor and about 95% of these calls can easily be taken care of during the workday. Their culture seems to be to just call whenever they feel like it/have a random question and I am not a big fan of it. It's up to him, but I set him up with a account to give it a try.

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Re: How can I get free calls and texts from the U.S. to the U.K.?
« Reply #15 on: October 01, 2015, 10:57:43 AM »
Google voice isn't free, but rates to UK is 3/min. So for $10/month she could talk for over 5 hours.
https://www.google.com/voice/rates

I use that in combination with skype to talk to my family overseas. Got my mom to install skype on her crappy smartphone and her PC and use that 90% of the time, so totally free. Occasionally I have to call their landline or cell phone and use google voice for 2/4/min. I spend almost nothing on this.

The google voice app integrate well on android. You can set it to use that for all international calls and it works as normal in the dialer. Don't even have to use a different app to call them. You do get a different number though.