What is a VoIP Client?

Also known as a 'softphone'

Smiling mother and daughters video chatting at laptop in Christmas living room
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A VoIP Client is a software application that is also called a softphone. It is normally installed on a user’s computer and allows the user to make VoIP calls. Through the VoIP client, can make free or cheap local and international calls and it gives you a lot of features. These are the main reasons why many people install VoIP clients on their computers or mobile devices and smartphones.

A VoIP client, when installed on a computer, will need hardware devices that will allow the user to communicate, like earphones, a microphone, headsets, a webcam etc.

The VoIP Service

A VoIP client cannot work alone. To be able to make the calls, it has to work with a VoIP service or a SIP server. A VoIP service is a subscription you have from a VoIP service provider to make the calls, a bit like your GSM service you use with your mobile phone. The difference is that you make the calls for very cheap with VoIP and if the person you are calling is using the same VoIP service and VoIP client, the call is in many cases free unlimited, wherever they are in the world. Most VoIP service providers offer you to download and install their VoIP client for free.

VoIP Client Features

A VoIP client is software that carries many features. It may simply be a softphone, where it would have a dialing interface, some contact memory, user ID and some other basic features. It may also be a complex VoIP application that not only makes and receives calls but also contains functionality like network statistics, QoS support, voice security, video conferencing etc.

SIP VoIP Clients

SIP is a technology that works on VoIP servers (PBXs) that offer calling service to machine (clients) that have a SIP-compatible VoIP client installed and registered. This scenario is very common in corporate environments and businesses. Employees have the VoIP clients installed on their desktop computers, laptops or smartphones and registered to the company’s SIP service on its PBX. This allows them to communicate in-house and also when outside through wireless technologies like Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, MiFi, LTE etc.

SIP VoIP clients are more generic and are not tied to any particular VoIP service. You can simply install one on your machine and configure it to be used with any service that offers SIP-compatibility. You can then make calls through it and pay the VoIP service provider.

Examples of VoIP Clients

The first example of a VoIP client that comes to mind is Skype’s software, which you can download and install from their site and make voice and video calls worldwide, mostly for free. Most other software-based VoIP service providers offer their own VoIP clients for free. There are VoIP clients that are more generic and allow you to use them with any VoIP service or within your company. A good example of this is X-Lite.