Whether you’re a small business or a business in the midst of a growth spurt, you need a business phone solution that gives you a professional image and the tools to succeed. A traditional phone isn’t good enough anymore, especially with remote work becoming more common. So, what should you use to keep your employees connected? VoIP Apps are the answer.
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, a fancy way to say “talking over the internet” instead of using a traditional landline. The internet can do so much more than your phone company can, which is why businesses continue to switch to VoIP apps. Let’s take a look at what VoIP apps can do and which ones are best for your business situation so that you can join the VoIP revolution.
What Is a VoIP App?
Simply put, a VoIP app is an app for communication that uses Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. These apps allow you to send text messages, create group chats, make calls, and receive phone calls. Some have extra features, like the ability to make international calls or video calls.
VoIP apps work on all kinds of devices, but you’ll have to check with each service to see which platforms they support. Most services have a web browser VoIP app which you can use simply by opening a new tab in your browser and logging into your account. Some may have a desktop app that you can download. Others have iOS and Android support.
The global pandemic created a surge in VoIP app use in 2020. Unfortunately, this has led to a lot of confusion about what these apps can do and which ones are best for your business. There are so many options to choose from. To help you narrow it down, let’s clearly define what kind of apps we’re looking at today.
What Is the Difference Between a VoIP App and a Videoconferencing App?
Videoconferencing apps like Zoom became one of the most popular ways to keep businesses running while everyone worked from home. Even though these apps use the same Voice over Internet Protocol as VoIP apps, they are more limited in their functions. Zoom, for instance, only provides video calls.
Although videoconferencing apps do video calls extremely well, they don’t offer much more. Businesses need other kinds of communication besides video and screen sharing. A true VoIP app will focus mostly on text and audio communication. They may also include a virtual phone number that lets people call you directly from a landline or cell phone.
You need a comprehensive solution, so that’s exactly what we’ve chosen to review for you here. Videoconferencing apps have their place, but VoIP apps are best for a complete solution that can keep your business humming along.
How Do VoIP Apps Work?
As we mentioned, VoIP apps use Voice over Internet Protocol. When you speak into your phone or microphone, instead of transmitting that audio over a landline or over the airwaves, your devices take your voice and turn it into data that can be transmitted over the internet.
Once your voice has been converted to data, your devices treat it the same as they would an email or a funny cat picture. On the internet, all data is created equal, so instead of consuming minutes on your phone plan, it uses megabytes from your data plan or your Wi-Fi connection. This actually gives VoIP apps several advantages.
For one thing, data on the internet doesn’t care about borders between countries. You don’t pay more to send an email to a destination that’s farther away. The same is true for your voice calls. When you use a VoIP app, you can make international calls without paying for long distance charges.
What Are the Best Free VoIP Services?
Small business owners are always looking to get the most without spending a lot. Free VoIP apps can help you to do just that. Of course, some of these options may have limitations and may not include all of the features you would like to have. Nevertheless, starting with a free app is a good way to get a feel for what features you actually need, and whether they are worth the cost.
Is WhatsApp a VoIP Service?
WhatsApp has become ubiquitous in most of the world, at least outside of the United States. It runs on Android devices and iOS, and there’s also a desktop application along with a web browser option. WhatsApp uses VoIP calling and allows you to leave voice messages, so it can be considered a VoIP app.
WhatsApp is free and very easy to use. The interface is very similar to the default iOS and Android messaging apps. However, its applications for business are somewhat limited. It is possible to set up a business account and even configure automated menus to direct clients more efficiently through customer service.
Unfortunately, WhatsApp also suffers from some privacy issues. Since it is owned by Facebook, there is concern that data could be shared inappropriately to its parent company. While WhatsApp does encrypt messages for your security, that only helps you if someone steals your phone and tries to find the messages on your device.
What About Skype?
Skype is one of the oldest VoIP calling services in the game. They were one of the first to provide free video calls and VoIP calls. Skype has more features than WhatsApp since it can also be used to call landlines and you can even get a virtual number that people can use to call you directly.
The virtual number feature comes at an added cost. The same is true for calling landlines or cell phones. You can add credit to your account and pay a fixed rate per minute based on the location of the number you dial. As a free solution, it’s one of the best options.
They have apps for every platform so you can stay connected wherever you go, which makes Skype an attractive solution.
Should You Use Facebook Messenger for VoIP?
Facebook messenger is extremely popular in the United States, and since many businesses have a Facebook page, it seems logical to use messenger also. Unfortunately, there are some flaws with messenger that make us hesitate to recommend it.
First of all, the apps are more sluggish than others and tend to drain the battery of mobile devices. However, there is a Messenger Lite app which is better about this compared to the full-fledged Facebook app. Like WhatsApp, if privacy is a concern then you may not want to opt for Facebook Messenger.
Facebook is one of the most targeted sites for cyberattacks and phishing attacks. You’re more likely to run into problems if your business relies on Facebook Messenger for communication.
Google: The Best Free Mobile VoIP App
So what is the best free VoIP app? Google’s offerings easily outclass the rest. It’s also easy to use Google’s services since, chances are, everyone in your business is familiar with how their software works. Google has three VoIP apps that you can use: Google Hangouts, Google Meet, and Google Voice.
Google Hangouts is more focused on chat and audio VoIP phone calls, while Google Meet is more focused on videoconferencing. Google Voice, on the other hand, is entirely about VoIP calling and if you live in the United States you can get a free VoIP phone number.
Since all of these services are free and offer unlimited access, they are the best free VoIP apps for small businesses. They integrate seamlessly with other Google products too, like Google Calendar or Gmail. But there are still some features you may be looking for that a free VoIP app cannot provide. Let’s look at the paid options and see why they may be the best solution for you.
The Best Paid VoIP Services for Business VoIP
Nextiva’s phone system has been ranked as one of the best business phone solutions. Their network boasts a 99.999% uptime as it relies heavily on Google’s internet infrastructure. They have all the key features you look for in a VoIP app.
One of the most significant features of Nextiva is its emphasis on artificial intelligence and analytics. You can analyze every aspect of your VoIP calls, even down to automatic analysis of the tone of your voice to find out which of your employees is the most disgruntled.
Their NextOS platform is responsible for all of this, and it works quite well. In addition to analytics and intelligence, they have a robust set of sales features and customer experience tracking tools to help you provide better service.
Nextiva’s pricing depends on the number of users and the type of plan you want. The essential plan starts out at about $22 per user per month, but gets cheaper as you add users. You’ll get unlimited calling and video calling, as well as plenty of toll-free minutes with a virtual number.
The most advanced features like automation and artificial intelligence come with the enterprise plan, which will set you back around $30-35 per user per month.
What Kind of Business Is Nextiva Best For?
Nextiva doesn’t come cheap. While Nextiva is a very powerful VoIP app, we would recommend it only for medium businesses that are looking to scale up and want to provide cutting-edge features to their clients.
Nextiva is ideal for businesses that need to communicate frequently with external clients and other companies. While Nextiva provides excellent internal communications, if you’re only going to use your VoIP app for internal calls and meetings, you probably don’t need all the extra features Nextiva offers.
Skype for Business (Soon to Be Microsoft Teams)
Wait a minute, didn’t we already say Skype was free? While you can use Microsoft’s VoIP app all you like without paying a dime, there are several features that you’re missing out on. With Skype for Business, you can unlock all of those features at a reasonable cost.
Their mobile app supports all of these features too, so you won’t need to download another app for your mobile device. Microsoft gave up on its own mobile OS a long time ago, and has since worked hard to make their mobile solutions work great for both Android users and iOS users alike.
However, we should mention that Microsoft is essentially looking to replace Skype for Business with Microsoft Teams, their full-featured suite that covers everything from text messages to video calling.
Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams both coexist for the time being. They are part of the Office 365 package, so when you sign up you’ll get every one of Microsoft’s apps. Do you need Word and Excel? Do you want to make great PPTs? Then Office 365 gives you access to all of these and more.
Microsoft’s support is also great. Users generally report being quite happy with their service and even rave about it in reviews. Since it’s a Microsoft product, you can also download their software from Windows App Store and install programs easily.
For what you get, Office 365 is actually a great low cost solution. Their basic plan starts at just $5 per user per month, which is virtually unbeatable. However, this basic plan doesn’t give users any desktop apps. You can only use their software when you have an internet connection.
So, chances are you’re going to need the Standard plan. Your workers are probably used to using the desktop versions of Microsoft’s software, not just the mobile app on a mobile phone or web browser variants. At $12.50 per user per month, this is still a great low cost option.
What Kind of Business Is Office 365 Best For?
Honestly, Office 365 is one of the top business VoIP solutions for a reason. Is it the best VoIP solution out there? While their service and support are great, and Teams is a top app, this is more of a Swiss Army knife.
We would recommend Office 365 and its VoIP app Skype for Business if you plan on paying for Microsoft’s software anyway. If your business has a need for Excel, Word, Powerpoint, or other Microsoft apps, then it only makes sense to use their best VoIP apps to handle your voice calls too.
RingCentral is all about replacing your business phone system with one of the best VoIP options available. They don’t waste time with other apps and don’t go wild with the futuristic features of Nextiva. They focus on one thing and do it extremely well: Communication.
RingCentral provides you with a virtual phone number for every user: even the janitor can have one! With this number, you can make a call or receive a call on multiple devices. Whether you’re using your mobile device or you’re using your desktop PC, you can use RingCentral.
The RingCentral app includes features like text messages, VoIP calls, and easy user management. It’s a great solution.
RingCentral’s focus is on replacing your traditional desk phone with a great app that can do it all. Your users will thank you. It’s easy to send texts to other team members internally and manage external communications at the same time since everything is centralized into one app.
Your virtual phone number works on every device. All you need is an internet connection and to have their app installed. RingCentral works on both iOS and Android and is one of the best mobile VoIP solutions available.
Like Nextiva, they offer analytics and some automation features. They also feature high-quality call recording so that you can review your calls for customer support improvements. They also have phone numbers in more than 100 countries so you can make an international call or receive an international call and avoid paying extra.
RingCentral’s pricing is similar to Nextiva but comes in slightly cheaper. Nextiva doesn’t really start dropping its prices until you have a lot of users. In contrast, RingCentral charges the same rate to companies that have anywhere from 2 to 20 users.
At $24.99 per user per month for the Standard plan, you’ll get everything from video and audio conferencing to top quality voice calls with unlimited calling to the US and Canada.
What Kind of Business Is RingCentral Best For?
If your business spends a lot of time on the phone, then RingCentral is a great option no matter how big or small you are. The cost of their service is more reasonable than their competitors, and they have virtually every feature your users could ever want.
Their app is snappy and responsive and won’t slow your business down at all. It’s also easy to scale up and add users, which makes it a great option for businesses that are ready to grow. Finally, if you need to make lots of international calls, then RingCentral is one of the best options available. Nobody has more international numbers than they do at these prices.
Vonage has a lot of brand recognition as they’ve been around for 20 years! They started out as a VoIP service even before everyone had a PC at home. Their first Vonage phone was a VoIP telephone that sat on your desk and used a wired internet connection. But they’ve come a long way since then.
Vonage has always been focused on the phone user. Their aim was to replace your standard phone entirely and make it easy to switch to a 100% internet-based phone system. You can call as much as you’d like and send unlimited SMS messages too.
Vonage positions itself as the top business VoIP provider, and when it comes to making a call with Vonage, it’s hard to beat them. Their mobile VoIP options are excellent and they have the best VoIP call available when it comes to audio quality.
Another thing they do very well is to protect your data. VoIP presents some level of risk if you are worried about data privacy. Screen sharing, voice calls, text messages, and even your video calling is always protected by industry-leading cybersecurity measures.
At $19.99 for a standard plan per user per month, Vonage isn’t the cheapest option but it’s not the worst. The per-user price drops as you add users, going down to $14.99 once you have more than 50 users.
The problem is that this level doesn’t include video, so if that’s a must for your business, Vonage starts to get expensive.
What Kind of Business Is Vonage Best For?
Call Vonage the king of the call. If you want your VoIP call to sound just as good as it would on a traditional phone, or even better, then Vonage is right for you. If data privacy is a major concern, then you should also consider Vonage.
This applies especially to European clients. If you do business with Europeans and you need to collect personal information while you’re on a call, then you should absolutely use Vonage. If you aren’t using proper encryption methods, you can run afoul of European data privacy laws, and that can get you into serious trouble.
So, What Is the Best VoIP App Available?
We already declared Google the king of the free space, but when it comes to paid apps using VoIP, we have to give a nod to Office 365. Skype lets you make calls on your PC and mobile app on both iOS and Android. They have decades of experience with mobile VoIP solutions with Skype.
Plus, getting all the other Microsoft software on your PC and mobile devices is just too good of a deal. Even though you might not want to edit an Excel chart on your Android devices, the ability to do so is nice to have.
The price is right too. Unless you’re a power user and you need advanced features like call analytics, there’s really no reason to pony up for the expensive options like Nextiva or even RingCentral. And with Microsoft’s excellent support, you can’t go wrong.