Email, Messaging, & Video Calls Texting & Messaging Types of VoIP Apps for Internet Calls By Nadeem Unuth Freelance Contributor Nadeem Unuth is a former freelance contributor to Lifewire who specializes in information and communication technology with a focus on VoIP. our editorial process LinkedIn Nadeem Unuth Updated March 17, 2020 Caiaimage/Chris Ryan / Getty Images Texting & Messaging Email Texting & Messaging Video Calls Tweet Share Email A VoIP app (VoIP means "voice over IP," a term for internet phone calls) works in the same way as any other VoIP client. It is a piece of software that allows you to use VoIP on your computer and other devices like mobile phone or tablet PC, to make and receive phone calls. Why Use a VoIP App? This question brings us back to why we use VoIP. VoIP has many advantages over landline and traditional mobile telephones. The main advantage is the cost. With a VoIP app, you can make calls worldwide very cheaply, and most of the time for free. Besides, there are a lot of interesting features that enrich the communication experience. Included are the benefits associated with unified communications. VoIP apps are also a fundamental element in cloud communication systems. Requirements for Using a VoIP App What you need for using VoIP software is most probably what you already have at home, in the office or in your pocket. They are: A computer or a mobile deviceAn internet connection, with sufficient bandwidth for VoIP communicationHearing devices (earphones or speakers) and a microphone, which are often embedded in the device you use (in the case of a mobile phone)A VoIP service that offers the callsA number or address that identifies you uniquely on the internet. This number, or SIP address, is most of the time offered by the service provider, so if you have an account with the service, you won’t have to technically bother about this requirement. To learn more about how this works, see what Enum is. VoIP apps are so numerous and varied that it is difficult to categorize them. However, we can place them under the feature that characterizes them most. Free vs. Paid VoIP Apps Most VoIP apps are free. They are those that come with a VoIP service like Skype; those that are offered by the prominent software manufacturers like Apple (FaceTime); and those that are offered free for other benefits, like for advertisement or for promoting a web site or a line of enhanced paid products or services. Paid VoIP apps have something above the free ones, additional features that entitle the manufacturers to call for payment. You will want to pay for VoIP apps, for example, in the context of a business, where you have a VoIP system deployed for advanced communication and collaboration processes, with business-related features like call recording, filtering, and all the other features related to IP PBXs. OS-Based vs. Web-Based VoIP Apps You don’t have to download every VoIP app you need. Some apps can be used embedded in your browser. An example is Gmail calling, which you can use within your Gmail inbox. Also, when you download an app to install on your computer, you need to know whether there is a version for the operating system you are using and get that one. PC vs. Mobile VoIP Apps The way you download and install a VoIP app is not the same when you do it on your mobile device. In that case, you need to log on from your mobile device to a special page of the site and follow instructions. Also, the service needs to support the mobile model you are using and needs to have provided a version of the app for it. Service-Based vs. SIP-Based VoIP Apps Each VoIP user has an address or number through which the user is contacted. It can simply be a username (like for Skype), a phone number, or a SIP address. Apps released by VoIP services allow you to use, in most cases, the username or phone number you got when you registered with the service. There are third-party apps that are service-independent, allowing you to use them with any service. These use SIP addresses. If you intend to use that kind of app, look for services that support the SIP protocol. Drawbacks of Using VoIP Apps VoIP apps have proved to be very useful and they form a complete paradigm in themselves in the communication context. There are however inconveniences with them, as there are with any other item of technology. They require you to have a computer switched on (in the case of PC-based apps). Imagine having to keep your PC on so as not to miss calls, or have a PC each time you need to make a call. But VoIP is now quite diversified and this problem is not as acute, with all the other types of VoIP services available.