Review: 6 Skype Alternatives Offer New Services

In an effort to compete with the market leader, VoIP services such as GrandCentral and TalkPlus have come up with some interesting and useful features that may inspire you to switch.
Anonymous Calling For Social Networkers

Jangl, like Jajah, connects a call by ringing both end-points. Unlike Jajah, though, Jangl doesn't depend on you knowing the number you want to call.

Jangl lets you accept calls from other people without revealing your telephone number.

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Instead, you enter your party's e-mail address. Jangl assigns a temporary phone number, which you call from your registered phone number. If the e-mail address belongs to another registered Jangl user, you'll be connected. If it doesn't, you'll leave a voicemail asking for a callback to another temporary number. When the person calls, Jangl will connect you.

Two good things about this:

  1. You can be called by people who don't know your phone number -- even people you don't want to know your phone number. Jangl's temporary numbers are semi-permanent -- your callers can put them into their contacts list and use them over and over, but if you decide you don't want to hear from them any more, you can block the number or delete the contact entirely.

  2. Jangl is priced right while it's in beta -- it's free, even for international calls. So, just as with Jajah, as long as you and the person you call are both registered Jangl users, the service costs nothing. (Free calling is limited to 32 countries, though -- you're going to have to keep paying to talk to your buddies in Wallis and Futuna). Jangl's temporary callback numbers are all local as well, so that won't cost you anything.

Jangl offers many of the same features as other second-generation VoIP services. You can screen first-time callers by listening to the caller's voice introduction, then accepting or rejecting the call. (Repeat callers who use the Jangl callback number show up in Caller ID.) Jangl provides voicemail for callers, and can send you e-mail or SMS notifications which include phone numbers and URLs, so you can listen to your messages either on your phone or your computer.

The service is pushing "CallMe Links," its version of click-to-call. It's the easiest one of the bunch to use: You don't need to include any special code or phone numbers -- just put a link on your site or in your email signature to "[email protected]" (with your e-mail address replacing "[email protected]," of course). You can use it even if you don't have a Jangl account -- everybody has to eventually register in order to connect a call, but the sign-up is easy.

Jangl is a little bit more cumbersome than other services because reconciling e-mail addresses adds a step or two to the process, but it's painless, and it works. You can keep your phone number private, and -- at least as long as Jangl is free -- you're not leaving yourself open to anything beyond your normal phone charges.

Jaxtr is more or less Jangl plus eye candy minus the e-mail address feature that permits unregistered users to make calls. It's clearly aimed at the social-networking market, and has a feature set that's intended for users with short attention spans.

Jaxtr offers widgets that can be embedded on sites like MySpace and LinkedIn, giving your callers different options for contacting you..

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Jaxter delivers the flashiest icons to your MySpace page or blog (you can add your photo to your Jaxtr icon). Like Jajah and Jangle, Jaxtr rings both phones to connect a call.

You can add up to three phones to your Jaxtr account and select which one receives calls -- or send all calls to voicemail. You can set rules on contacts to accept calls, send them to voicemail, or block them entirely. Like Jangl, Jaxtr makes persistent links between the number you're calling from and the number you're calling to, so once you get a Jaxtr number for your party you can save it in your contacts and use it to call directly or text to.

This also means that you've got a no-cost route to your party's phone, because at least for the time being, Jaxtr is free, even for international calls (currently Jaxtr connects calls to 44 countries – the service just added India, Hong Kong, China, South Africa, Jamaica, and Russia). Your total minutes of talk time per month are limited, but text messaging is unlimited, though you have to do it from your phone – the Jaxtr Web site doesn't give you the capability to text your contacts from a browser.)

Jaxtr doesn't offer the features of other services -- no conference calling, for example -- and its Web site is as much about attitude as it is about ease if use, but its no-headset calling, good list of international calling countries, and its current price of $0 make it attractive, especially if you want to text someone overseas.

Editor's Choice
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Terry White, Associate Chief Analyst, Omdia
John Abel, Technical Director, Google Cloud
Richard Pallardy, Freelance Writer
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer