Turn Your iPad into a Phone

Make Free Phone Calls on Your iPad

Calling on iPad
Hoxton / Tom Merton / Getty Images

We are at a time where the iPad 3 is behind the door but I will use the term iPad for simplicity, and also because this tutorial helps with all versions of the iPad. So, you have offered yourself an iPad and you want to get all the juice out of it. You can use your jewel to make and receive free (and cheap in some cases) voice calls to your contacts locally and worldwide. VoIP allows you to do that.

You just need to have and do what it takes to turn your iPad into a VoIP phone. Here is what you need.

1. Voice Input and Output

You don’t want to hold your 9.7 inch iPad up to your ear to talk during a phone conversation. You don’t have to because it is not designed to be used thus. There are three ways in which you can set up your voice input and output for your phone conversations. First, you can use the integrated microphone and speakers of the iPad. Here, of course, you need to be close enough to the tablet to communicate. Also, don’t expect your calls to be discrete, as they will be more like hands-free calls that are suitable for family conversations. There is nothing much to configure here, as the microphone and speakers are already working and are the default audio hardware. Secondly, you can plug in a headset or separate earpieces and microphone, for more discrete phone conversations.

You can do so in the 3.5 mm stereo headphone minijack on your iPad. Third, and this seems the best thing to do for me, is to pair your iPad with a Bluetooth headset. Here is a tutorial on how to pair a Bluetooth headset, and here is my top list of Bluetooth headsets.

2. Internet Connectivity

To make free calls over the Internet, you need to have an Internet connection with adequate bandwidth.

Bandwidth is not that much of a problem, but being able to get a connection everywhere is. Your iPad is a mobile device and you need mobile connection. This comes either in 3G or Wi-Fi. Note that you won’t be able to use a GSM SIM card for these calls. The iPad isn’t a phone, primarily. You can’t use Wi-Fi if the model of iPad you have doesn’t support Wi-Fi. If it does, then you can happily make the calls under any hotspot whether at home, in the office, on the campus or while waiting at the airport. But Wi-Fi isn’t very mobile; it leaves you as soon as you walk a dozen meters away. That leaves you with 3G if you want connectivity anywhere under the sky. Again, forget about it if your iPad model does not support 3G! If it does, you need to make sure that your data plan has enough ‘juice’ in terms of minutes or megabytes. VoIP service providers recommend unlimited 3G data plans for obvious reasons.

3. VoIP Service and App

Finally, you need to use a VoIP service and a VoIP app that will allow you to make the free calls. As geeky as it may sound, it is quite easy. You choose a VoIP service, you register online and you download and install its app on your iPad. You are then ready to communicate.

The VoIP app is most of the time provided by the service, free. The most prominent example we can take is Skype. Here is a run-through of how to install and set up Skype on your iPad. Skype is good on many platforms, but it doesn’t seem to enjoy an excellent reputation for the iPad and for Apple’s iOS in general. There are plenty of other VoIP services and apps out there, one better than the other. So peruse this list of VoIP services for the iPad and choose one.