When you think of international calling, the first things that come to you mind are probably large phone bills and slow or unreliable connections. Anyone over the age of 30 would probably agree that overseas calling used to be quite a hassle and very expensive. Whether you wanted to stay in touch with family from other countries, or connect to work while travelling abroad, you had to pay a lot of money.
But making calls internationally has never been easier and cheaper than today. If you have a smartphone or laptop, you can connect to your loved ones or co-workers in seconds. There are many cell service plans and apps that let you call for next-to-nothing. And there are no reasons why you should have to fork over any cash at all. In this blog post, we're going to introduce 12 apps that let you make as many calls as you like, from whichever country you are and to whichever country you are calling to. Each of them come with their own unique features.
Why Is Over-Seas Calling So Expensive?
Before we get to the apps, you might be curious as to why international calling used to be so expensive -- this is especially hard to understand with hard the free alternatives that are widely available to everyone today. Here is how it works: when you make an overseas phone call, you get a dedicated 'circuit-switched' connection to the person you're calling. That essentially means you have a direct line that no one can mess with. Not only are these calls expensive to process, but everyone involved, including your service provider, adds a mark-up to make a profit.
On the other hand, free international calling apps process your calls differently, in ways that allow you to avoid these expensive networks. These apps are known as VoIP services.
What Is a VoIP Service?
VoIP apps, which stands for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) apps, is a type of service that converts your voice into a digital signal which then travels over an internet connection. So it uses Wi-Fi or cellular data to process your call. While this means that your calls are basically free of charge as long as you have internet connections, some people still choose their traditional phone service because VoIP services simply can't offer the same quality or connection.
As we mentioned, VoIP services use Wi-Fi signals to travel. So instead of using a dedicated connection for your call, the VoIP app essentially throws packets into the air that the other end of the line has to convert. On top of that, the quality of your call with a VoIP service naturally depends on the internet connection quality in your area.
If you currently have a Wi-Fi or data plan that is not unlimited, you would technically pay for the call depending on how much data it used. But if your plan is unlimited, or if you use the Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or restaurant, then the call is 100% free of charge. With that in mind, here are the 12 best international calling apps you can start using for free.
The first app on our list is WhatsApp, a clever play on the greeting "What's Up?" It's a calling and texting app that has become very popular all over the world, for good reason. It's 100% free, and very simple to use and set up.
It has everything you need on a daily basis, and for most people, it replaces their default phone and messaging apps completely. In fact, WhatsApp is so well-known that many retail stores and companies, especially outside of the US, use WhatsApp to communicate with customers.
Pros about WhatsApp
If you want to make free international calls, WhatsApp is probably for you. It has been around since 2009, and has many other features apart from just calling. Here are all the main features WhatsApp has to offer:
- International Voice Calling.
- Video Calling.
- Text Messages.
- Group chats.
- Group voice and video calls with up to 32 people.
- Pictures and videos.
- Gifs and custom stickers.
On top of that, you can download WhatsApp on your laptop too, or even use a web app version!
Another strength about WhatsApp is its popularity --there are now over 2.24 billion people using the app worldwide, making it one of the most popular global mobile messenger apps. It is the 8th most downloaded android app in the Google Play Store.
Cons about WhatsApp
Let's be honest, WhatsApp doesn't have many downsides. But there is no one-size-fits-all for communication apps. Everyone has different needs. Unlike some of the other apps on this list, WhatsApp requires you to have a phone number before you start using it.
That means you already need to be paying for a cell service plan to use the app. But this also allows you to make and receive calls from your normal phone number instead of giving out a separate VoIP number or username.
If you're looking to connect with business partners or co-workers from other parts of the world, WhatsApp may als0 not be the best choice. There are other apps on this list with more business-oriented features that may work better for you.
If you use apple devices, FaceTime is another very good option that comes pre-installed on your iPhone. As such, it may come as a surprise that some people actually don't know that it can be used as an international calling app, and may have overlooked it.
If you're not in the mood to show your face, you can simply turn off your video and have a normal, free, international phone call.
New FaceTime Features!
Even as you've heard of FaceTime -- especially if you're an Apple device user -- there are some new and exciting features that you might not have discovered yet. Here are a few:
SharePlay allows you to share your phone's screen while on a FaceTime call. You can use this to watch movies, videos, music, etc., with family and friends. With this feature, you can share various controls and experience dynamic audio that adjusts itself to your voice's volume.
Spatial audio has made its way over from television and music to apps like FaceTime. Many people describe the feature as "magic," and say that it sounds like your friends are in the room with you. But spatial audio is only available with certain Apple audio devices, including:
- AirPods Gen 3
- Airpods Pro
- AirPods Pro Gen 2
- AirPods Max
- Beats Fit Pro (Owned By Apple)
Skype is probably the 0ldest app on this list. It came out in 2003, but it only supported voice calls before 2010, when it began allowing video calls as well. Because of its age and the availability of other options, today some people may think Skype is outdated. However, it is still a very user-friendly tool with many useful features even by today's standard. In fact, it includes features and benefits that some other VoIP apps may not have.
Pros of Skype
Many people use Skype to communicate with family and friends, as well as for business. In fact, one of the main benefits of Skype is that people of all ages use it. It counted around 300 million active users in 2023. So while some people might not have, or know how to use some of the newer apps on this list, chances are they would have been using Skype for years.
Skype also has the ability to call directly to someone's phone number, or even landline. And the best part: the people receiving the calls don't necessarily have to install the app. Yes, this feature does cost money - either Skype credits, Skype subscription, or a Skype number - But even so, it's much cheaper than paying for a cell service plan and traditional overseas calling rates.
Cons of Skype
Skype does have a few downsides that you should be aware of, though in most cases they are quite insignificant. For example, you may notice things like lower video and audio quality. It also has less integration with other apps, especially when compared to some of the newer VoIP services.
If you have co-workers all over the world and need to stay in touch with them regularly, Zoom would definitely make a great app for you. It's a tool that allows you to host or attend virtual meetings with up to 100 different people for free, and up to 300 or 500 people with paid subscriptions. Here is Zoom's paid subscription pricing:
- Basic: 0$ per month
- Pro: $14.99 per month
- Business: $19.99
- Business Plus: Custom
- Enterprise: Custom
While Zoom was made for events such as virtual meetings, online classes, presentations, etc., it also works perfectly fine for 1-on-1 or small group calls as well. Zoom includes a variety of features that are mainly helpful for large meetings. Here are some:
Streaming to Facebook
With Zoom, you can stream any conference, class, or meeting on Facebook, making it public for others to view without being directly in the meeting.
Another helpful feature that Zoom offers is that it allows you to share meetings via a link. And with that, you can also connect Zoom to various calendar programs such as Calendly and Google Calendar. This allows people to schedule meetings with you and automatically receive their Zoom link, and some reminders, to their email.
The Downsides to Zoom
Zoom is not the simplest platform to use. It's more of a business-oriented app so it may not be best for calling friends and family. There are many other apps that are easier to use and most of them offer direct calling.
To use zoom, you usually will have some other form of prior contact with the person you want to call. That's because you have to share the link with them, or have them schedule a meeting, before you can start the Zoom call.
Zoom also suffers from what's called "Zoom bombing." This is where the link somehow gets leaked, and random people begin joining your meeting. Even if your call is secured with a password, that too can be leaked. But this typically only happens with larger meetings, such as classes, and is usually pretty harmless.
5. Google Meet
Google Meet is similar to Zoom in the way it works. But Google Meet also offers services that are specific to Google. Today, you may hear people argue over which one is better, but the reality is that they're both unique in their own ways, and specialize in slightly different things. For example, Google Meet offers a relatively simpler interface and cheaper subscription prices. Here is what their subscriptions look like:
- Starter: $6 per month
- Standard: $12 per month
- Plus: $18 per month
- Enterprise: Custom
But of course, it's free to use without a subscription. Google Meet does not currently have a desktop app and is only available as a web-based service or mobile app. It also allows a 1-hour meeting using a free plan, with up to 100 participants. There are many other features included with google meet that may be important. Here are a few:
- Standard screen sharing
- Closed captioning and live transcription
- Breakout rooms with automatic shuffle and time limits
- External app integrations
Discord is a completely different type of VoIP software. It includes a web app, a mobile app, and a desktop app. Discord has many unique features that make it a special entry on this list. But before we get into those, let's first talk about the essentials. Discord allows you to make voice and video calls from your laptop or phone, including free international phone calls. It's a relatively new VoIP app which is completely separate from your phone number.
While it cannot call devices that do not have the Discord app installed, it's a very popular platform among gamers, students, and businesses. So if the person you are trying to contact belong to one of these categories, chances are that they already have Discord or are willing to give it a try.
To place a call on Discord, you first need the person's username. Once you have that, you can send a friend request, though that's not required to place a call. You can also screen share and send messages, pictures, videos, or files under 8MB.
Below we'll go through the more special features of Discord.
Why Is Discord Unique?
Discord allows you to create servers. A server is a private group with certain friends, family, or co-workers, to whom you can call, video chat, and message. You can start or join up to 100 servers with a free plan. You may have one server for your friends, one server for work, one server with your classmates, etc. There are even servers you can join that are dedicated to certain things. You can look for public servers on sites like Disboard.
Another unique feature that Discord offers is bots. Bots are programmed to do certain things, and they can be added to any server. Some bots allow you to play music, some display welcome messages to new members, and some send funny pictures every now and then. You can find any of these bots online, and there is usually one for everything.
Discord also allows you to make and send custom emojis. These may be pictures, designs, or both at the same time.
Discord does offer paid subscriptions. Such as Nitro basic and Nitro. They vary slightly in what they offer so here are each plan's features:
- 50MB upload limit
- Make and send custom emojis anywhere
- Special Nitro badge on your profile
- 500MB upload limit
- Make and send custom emojis anywhere
- HD video streaming
- Access to activities
- 2 Server boosts included (perks for your server)
- Special and custom profile
All in all, Discord is a fun and integrated platform that is also a very good tool for you to call anyone you want. While you can't make calls directly to someone's phone number, Discord can still be used as a free international calling app.
OpenPhone is a very simple and effective VoIP if you need to call directly to actual phone numbers. Similar to Skype, OpenPhone lets you make calls directly to someone's cell phone or landline without the need for other apps. OpenPhone is available as a web app, desktop app, and mobile app for iPhone or android.
OpenPhone gives you a choice of phone numbers to choose from when you sign up. You can search for numbers with certain area codes, though they are subject to availability. It even allows you to port your existing number to the app. You'll need some information and account details from your service provider to do so. If you port your number, that means you'll be able to make and receive calls from your current phone number. You can also get add-ons, including some for international calling.
OpenPhone also offers texting, voicemail services, and most other features that you get with your traditional phone service app. You have a few different options for subscriptions with OpenPhone, but you get a 7-Day free trial. Here are the plans available:
- Standard: $13 per month
- Premium: $20 per month
- Enterprise: custom
8. Google Voice
Google voice is a very compact VoIP app for either business or personal use. While there is no desktop app for it, you can sign up using android, IOS, or their web app. You can also use your google account to sign up which makes it that much simpler.
When creating an account, once you enter a city, county, or state, it will display a list of available numbers with that area code. You can choose any of the numbers that they give you. Note that you will need to verify your identity using another phone number when signing up. So google Voice is best used as a second phone or work line. It should not be your primary number.
Google voice, like OpenPhone, has many of the same features as your regular phone. Here are some important ones to note:
- Voicemail message transcription
- Transcript searching
- Spam filter
- International calling
While the app itself is free to use, international calls require credits in order to be placed. You can check out the menu to look at your credit balance and other options.
9. Facebook Messenger
Facebook messenger is something you may be familiar with. It's another simple VoIP app that allows for free calls and messages. Like many popular social media platforms, you can also add 'stories' to your Messenger profile. These are temporary posts that show up on your profile for up to 24 hours, but you can delete them at any time.
Facebook Messenger is a very user friendly platform to use. It has some features of traditional call and text apps, such as read receipts, emojis, message reactions, voice messages, camera, photo upload, location, etc. It also has some features that are not included in most messaging apps, such as video message and money transfer.
Facebook Messenger Money Transfer
Yes, you can send and request payments of customized amounts to anyone you want. This is useful for anyone who does not use an iPhone --- or anyone who's sending or receiving money from someone who can't use ApplePay.
To transfer money on Facebook Messenger, you simply have to set up a debit card or PayPal account with the app, add a personal PIN, and you're good to go!
Using Facebook Messenger, you can place 100% free overseas calls to anyone else using the platform, making it a very handy international phone call app.
For small businesses and enterprises, CallHippo is a great virtual phone system. It's a powerful tool made for sales teams that allows international calling. CallHippo lets you make calls in markets all over the world, supporting 50+ countries. With this platform, you can place and track calls, and even use SMS. While CallHippo may not be the easiest to use and set up, you can do a lot more with it than most VoIP services.
The basic plan for CallHippo is free. But there are many different plans you can upgrade to if they are right for you. On top of that, all of the plans offered by CallHippo come with a 10-Day free trial. Here is the pricing for their plans:
- Basic: $0 per month
- Bronze: $16 per month
- Silver: $24 per month
- Platinum: $40 per month
CallHippo is also notable for its customer support. And the same can be said of their chat support as well. In general, not many VoIP apps or software services have good customer support, but you will find that CallHippo comes with a team that is ready to answer questions you have, at any time. CallHippo also has a variety of other built-in features. These features are best for businesses and sales teams, and here are some of the most important:
- Automatic call distribution
- Call recording
- Advanced call analytics
- Call queuing
- Global connect
- Call transfer
- Call conference
CallHippo comes with many more features that you can explore. There are also almost 100 CRMs that CallHippo can seamlessly integrate with.
Viber is a VoIP made for personal use, but can also be used as a work phone. With Viber, you can send messages, stickers, photos, videos, GIFs, and much more. Many people use it for voice and video calling as well. You can connect it directly to other phone numbers, and even search for your existing contacts within the app.
Viber's Unique Features
The Viber app also has a few unique features. For example, you can set your messages to disappear after a certain amount of time. You can also share your live location, different contacts in the chat, and also send voice and even video messages! There are also the option to create group chats on Viber. With many setting and adjustments that you can make for your group, so it's a fun app to explore.
Viber also allows you to hide chats. You can connect your phone's pin or touch ID to show certain chats. Plus, let's say you want to text a friend or family member with Viber but they don't have the app, Viber will give you the option of sending them an invite link to the app, directly to their messages.
Viber also has communities. A Viber community is essentially a public group chat dedicated to a certain topic. You can navigate to the 'explore' tab to look at the available communities. If you find one that interests you, you can simply tap it and join.
TextNow has been popular since 2009, the year when it came out. It's a classic VoIP service that has a lot to offer. While some people believe it is better used for a backup, secondary, or work phone, it can also be used as your primary number, if you always have access to Wi-Fi or data.
TextNow also allows you to transfer an existing phone number and this feature is free. So if you have a phone number already and want to connect it to a VoIP, TextNow can be a good choice. Alternatively, if you don't currently have a phone number, or you want to keep it separate from your VoIP app, you can grab a brand new number from TextNow. You can also call and text from your laptop or desktop, in case you're away from your phone.
The downside of TextNow is that if you don't use your number often enough, you may lose it. You can pay a small fee to keep your number permanently, but if you're worried about it, try to text or call with TextNow every now and then. The app also may have some ads, though if you are willing to pay, you can remove them and lock in your number for a bundled deal.
Using TextNow without Wi-Fi
TextNow is a bit more extensive than other VoIP services. It has a plan that gives you a nationwide sim card that provides you with free talk and text services using T-Mobile's network. It's worth noting that TextNow does not offer free data plans, so you need an existing one or a Wi-Fi connection to use that service. Otherwise, you can chat away for free!
TextNow also offers data plans, but they are pretty expensive. So to get the best value out of the app, it's better to have a separate data plan or stable Wi-Fi connection.
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