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While the idea of holding your iPad up to your ear and answering it as you would do a smart phone is pretty silly. Using an iPad as a phone however isn’t such a stupid idea. Especially if you consider that the resulting system can be used with a PC, Smart Phone, Home Phone and the iPad.
I’ve been thinking of ditching my mobile phone for a while and the recent iPad 3 device with its 3G technology got me to thinking how hard would it be to use my iPad as a phone.
The secret sauce here is Voice over IP (VoIP) putting phone calls and potentially video conferencing over the internet. This is not a new technology it has been around for a long time and services such as Skype make heavy use of Skype. Many offices too use VoIP systems based on a protocol called SIP (or Cisco’s propritory Simple) for thier phone lines.
There are many VoIP apps out here and services which can provide you with a Phone number and a sip gateway which is what bridges you between the internet and the phone systems and this is not free, there is a cost involved which can either be paid using PaYG or monthly much like your mobile phone contract.
After checking out a few Apps and reviews online i came down to two choices for me
The first was sipgate.co.uk which has a very low cost supplying world wide numbers and very cheap international calls if that is also your thing. The setup process is quick and easy to create your own DDI phone number. Adding credit also supports PayPal and there are various deals for setting up how you wish to pay and how much.
Where Sipgate however really caught my eye was the inclusion of an iPad app, not an iPhone x 2 app but a dedicated iPad app. The app is clean and simple to use and pulls in the contact information from the IOS contact list.
The app works quite well with my bluetooth headset which itself isn’t anything more than a Vodafone £20 in ear headset.
Entering in your account details has the application setup in seconds and once setup and creditworthy you can call out and call in as well as send SMS messages. The only downside i can spot is it doesn’t accept SMS’s coming back into the account from a mobile phone. If i am going to drop my moible phone then i do need this.
This lead me to the second service which comes recommended on a lot of forums Voipfone.co.uk now unlike Sipgate there is no app for this service however that in turn lead me to find the Counterpath Bria app.
At £10 this is a pricy app, however Counterpath has some great features as well as being an Audio VoIP client the app also supports Video conferencing, XMPP Messaging and like the sipgate app links into the contacts library in IOS.
While it is possible to get Sipgate to work with Bria i did find that getting the incoming calls to work to be a bit of a pain. However the voipfone account i setup worked straight off the bat.
Voipfone works on a system of building a package for you and as such it’s possbile to tailor to your needs the phone package you want. This also includes incomming and outgoing SMS’s via Bria (they also provide 5 minutes of free calls for testing)
Bria allos the use of multiple SIP gateways as well which means if you travel a lot its possible to setup phone numbers all over the world and use them while travelling and not need to worry about swapping out your SIM.
While this suffices for my needs it’s possbile you might, if you make a lot of international calls it may be beinficial for you to setup your own personal sip gateway server.
A distro i’ve used Trixbox. where the idea is you setup a sip gateway and add multiple external SIP gateways to your server, a set of preconfigured vial planswould allow you to switch between sip providers and ensure you get the cheapest calls internationally..
While i’ve not giving up my phpne till november as it stands right now the combination of an iPAd, 3G a bluetooth headset and Bria over voipfone sems to be a workable combination.