Working from home means that you need to be able to stay connected at all times. We live at our desks now and the computer screen is our portal to the world. That is, until we get a phone call and need to drop what we’re doing and reach for the cell phone or the landline. But with residential VoIP Services, you can stay focused and productive.
Instead of having to fumble for your phone, you could just keep a headset on and handle calls directly from your computer. What’s more, you might fall in love with residential VoIP so much that you end up ditching your traditional phone altogether. All you need is an internet connection and a headset or microphone and you’re good to go. Let’s take a closer look at residential VoIP and which services provide the best features for you.
What Is a VoIP Phone?
If you haven’t heard of VoIP before, don’t worry. You don’t need to be a tech expert to put this technology to use. It stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, which is how we send real-time audio over the internet. A VoIP phone is essentially a phone that uses your internet service instead of a traditional landline or a cellular network to handle your calls.
Because you’re using the internet, your computer or laptop becomes your phone! You can even use it on cell phones or tablets, heck you can even put it in the car with Android Auto. As long as you have internet service, you can turn any device into a fully functional VoIP phone that can make and receive calls and so much more.
If you like the feel of a traditional phone, you can also get desk phones that are compatible with VoIP. While these are often marketed to businesses, they work for residential use cases too. Look for an IP phone or VoIP phone model that’s compatible with the service you decide to use.
Is VoIP Available for Home Use?
The answer is absolutely! In fact, some of the first VoIP providers were focused on residential service. The internet doesn’t care about your location, so as long as you have an internet connection, you can use your VoIP phone service wherever you like. Whether you’re looking for a business VoIP service as a self-employed work-from-home entrepreneur, or you just want the best residential VoIP plans to stay in touch with friends and family, there’s an option for you.
Home VoIP gives you features you could never get with your traditional landline. Most VoIP providers that market to home users refer to their product as residential VoIP, so let’s look at how it differs from other services.
What Is Residential VoIP?
Residential VoIP is focused on providing service within your home as opposed to a business VoIP provider that offers other tools that might be useful for larger companies. Some residential VoIP providers will even give you a VoIP phone for your desk with the goal of replacing your landline phone completely with VoIP.
Residential VoIP is plug and play. You don’t need technicians to come and install anything, although some companies can send someone over to your house if you’re not sure how to set it up. But it’s really just as simple as taking a phone out of the box and plugging it in.
To use residential VoIP on your PC, tablet, iOS or Android cell phone, or laptop, all you need to do is download an application. Switching to VoIP is super easy. Once you do, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
What Is a Good VoIP Service?
With that out of the way, let’s talk about residential VoIP providers. The best residential VoIP providers go beyond just offering you a home phone service and include features that your local phone company wishes they had. For example, you can set up call blocking to keep spam and scammers away from your home.
Other VoIP calling features, like three-way calling, are much easier to use than they are on traditional phones. Caller ID is enhanced with VoIP since you can actually get information from your contacts when someone calls you instead of just seeing the number that’s calling you.
Best of all, you can save a ton of money on your phone bill. Nearly every residential VoIP service offers unlimited calling. If you tend to make international calls, you’ll find that the rates for VoIP calls tend to be much cheaper than what your phone company offers. Residential VoIP service providers offer so much more than your landline phone, so let’s get ready to cut the cord.
The 6 Best Residential VoIP Providers
Vonage: VoIP That Equals Your Traditional Phone Service
Vonage was one of the first companies to ever provide residential VoIP service. You might remember some of their commercials from back in the early 00s when they first launched. Their experience means that they are one of the most reliable VoIP service providers on the market.
Vonage will give you a brand new phone number when you sign up, however, you can also keep your existing number. Just ask Vonage to transfer your number over to their system and they’ll have it done within a week or two. In the meantime, you can use the number they give you so you don’t miss a single day of work.
Vonage also lets you turn your existing landline phone into an IP phone with the magic of its Vonage Box. You don’t need to buy any new hardware to switch to Vonage. You can still shred your contract with the local phone company if you wish, or keep it around as a backup.
Vonage’s residential VoIP option is called Vonage At Home and they have several plans depending on who you need to call and where they are located. The Vonage North America option gives you unlimited calling to the USA and Canada, and also Puerto Rico and Mexico.
If you’ve got some friends overseas, then the Vonage World plan is one of the best options for international calling. They give you unlimited calling to over 60 countries and offer standard calling features like caller ID and call waiting.
Another feature we love is that Vonage allows you to add two cell phones or other devices to your plan. If someone calls your number, you can pick it up with your cell phone or your home phone. You can configure these devices to all ring at the same time too, just like how your multiple home phones work.
Vonage North America costs $26.99 per month, but there is a 6-month discount that brings the cost down to $14.99 per month for half of your first year. The Vonage World plan is only $3 more per month or $19.99 a month for the first 6 months. Given the relatively small increase in cost, it makes sense to upgrade if you need to make international calls frequently.
If that VoIP price is a bit too steep or you just don’t make that many calls from your home phone, you can sign up for the US & Canada 400 plan. This gives you, predictably, 400 minutes of calling to the USA and Canada. There’s no long-distance fee for making any calls within the areas specified in their residential VoIP plans.
We would recommend Vonage VoIP for home users who want to drop their landline phone but have a similar experience. Vonage even recreates the dial tone you hear when you pick up the phone at home!
Unfortunately, Vonage doesn’t have a PC app option. While you can use your mobile phones to handle calls, there’s no way to put Vonage on your laptop or PC. That’s something several other providers offer, and it’s a feature we’d like to see.
Ooma Telo: The Future of VoIP Calling Plans?
Ooma’s approach to VoIP calls is easily the most innovative and intriguing one that we’ve ever seen. They provide home phone services through their premier device: Ooma Telo. While it might sound like you’re speaking caveman, this residential VoIP provider is straight from the future.
All you have to do is buy a single Ooma Telo device and connect it to your internet service. They have a wired version called the Telo White, which plugs directly into your internet router. The Telo Air works over Wi-Fi so you can put it anywhere in the house. You can even get the Telo 4G that uses a SIM card to provide phone service using cellular networks.
Once your Ooma device is connected, you can make calls using traditional phones or your mobile phone if it’s connected to your Wi-Fi network. All of the devices in your house will work through a single Ooma unit.
The most exciting feature of Ooma is that it unites all of your phones into one VoIP residential network. Vonage requires an adapter connected to each of your phones for them to use VoIP. But Ooma has a built-in wireless radio that lets you sync up wireless landline phones in seconds. Vonage gives you two mobile devices, while Ooma has no limit.
The Telo has special processors that make your VoIP calling sound crystal clear. Voice over IP has often had the problem of sounding a little bit off, almost robotic. But with Ooma, that problem goes away and will never come back.
Ooma has some amazing advanced features too. You can connect it with other devices, like Philips Hue lights. Imagine your room changing color when you get a call instead of having a loud, harsh ring tone. It also integrates with Alexa or Google so you can place a call by just talking to your smart speaker.
Here’s where Ooma gets really interesting. By default, they have a no-contract free plan. You only have to pay a few dollars a month in taxes and fees that your local government imposes. A Telo unit costs $99, which is a one-time up-front payment.
With this free plan, you get unlimited calling to anywhere in the United States with no long-distance fees. That has to be one of the best VoIP calling plans. But if you need more advanced features, there’s Ooma Premier, which costs $9.99 a month.
With Premier, you get two phone numbers and can add more to your account. You can call from your mobile device even when you’re not at home using the Ooma Mobile App. Premier also gives you international calls to the US and Mexico.
We really like Ooma as a replacement for your home phone. They’re clearly the most innovative residential VoIP provider we’ve come across, and their pricing model is attractive. Although there’s a higher price to pay upfront, after that it’s the best low-cost option. Even if you pony up for Premier, you’re still probably going to spend as little as $15 a month.
If you only pay for the Telo White, you’re essentially getting home phone services for free after paying $99 once. Consider it an investment in your future.
RingCentral: VoIP for You and Your Business
The last two options we looked at aim to be the best residential VoIP providers, but what about phone services that can help you run a business? That’s where RingCentral shines. RingCentral bridges the gap between home VoIP and business VoIP.
RingCentral offers its clients a virtual phone number which you can link to your PC or mobile phone using their app. If you prefer, you can set up call forwarding so that any call made to your virtual phone number goes to your home phone or cell phone.
This virtual phone service can also work well for residential VoIP users as it connects with a variety of smart desk phones. RingCentral has an excellent customer support network as well, with licensed installers that can come to your home to set up their home VoIP service if you aren’t technically inclined.
RingCentral stands out from the competition by giving you phone services through its excellent app. It’s like your standard messaging app, letting you deliver texts and calls to anyone on your contact list. Other people don’t need to pay for RingCentral to receive your messages or calls.
With their smart call forwarding tools, you can use any of your existing phone numbers on RingCentral. International calling is easy to use as RingCentral can give you a virtual phone number in over 100 countries! When you do that, you’ll get unlimited calling within that country, instead of paying per minute. Of course, you can do that too if you prefer.
RingCentral has lots of tools for small business owners too. If too many people are calling you and you have clients waiting call forwarding can redirect them to someone who’s free. And call waiting can be customized with messages or music.
For a single user, RingCentral isn’t the cheapest option by any means. They charge $29.99 a month when you pay for the whole year upfront. However, if you have at least two users on your account that number drops to $19.99 per user each month.
We like RingCentral for small businesses that need to stay connected and want all of the VoIP features imaginable. Although they don’t focus exclusively on residential VoIP, their business VoIP options are excellent and can double as home phone service if you run your business from home.
RingCentral removes long-distance charges entirely and eliminates long-distance charges for international calling if you get an international number, so if you frequently call abroad, call RingCentral.
Mitel is a VoIP provider that, like RingCentral, offers a phone service that has tools to help your business activity while also taking care of your home phone service needs. After all, it’s 2021, is there really a difference between the home and the office anymore?
The main product that Mitel offers is its MiCloud phone service. This uses Google’s network to provide you with a reliable VoIP call every time. They recommend you buy the Mitel 6900 IP Phone, which has some serious phone power. It has a 7” color display and uses Bluetooth to connect to your headset.
Like other VoIP providers, Mitel offers unlimited calls within the United States. Their software lets you connect your cell phone and desktop PC just like RingCentral does. They also give you audio conferencing and video conferencing options.
Mitel is a great all-in-one VoIP provider, but they also don’t go into a ton of detail on their website about some of the other features they offer. We’d like a little more transparency from Mitel, which becomes even more problematic when it comes to pricing.
When you go to Mitel’s website and check out prices, at a glance, it looks pretty good! Only $20.99 a month for all of these amazing VoIP features? Seems like a good deal.
Until you get to the bottom of the page where it says these rates are based on 50-100 users. They tell everyone to get a quote and contact their sales team.
Honestly, it’s hard to recommend a company that doesn’t even let you sign up for its services without dealing with a sales department.
Line2 is a simple VoIP provider, but we like how they approach residential VoIP. As far as residential VoIP providers go, Line2 might be the easiest to deal with.
They give you a virtual phone number and you can use it anywhere you like. Just install the app. Windows, iOS, and Android are all supported.
Line2’s Starter phone service gives you basic call forwarding and the ability to make all the calls you want within the United States. The Growth plan adds a Call Scheduler tool that can help you stay organized and never forget a call. You can upgrade to Business and get call recording and more advanced call forwarding features.
Above all, Line2 is easy to use. As soon as you’re done making your payment, just download the app and log in and you’re ready to go.
At only $14.99 a month for unlimited calling without long-distance charges in the United States, Line2’s Starter plan is an excellent low-cost option.
International Calling rates aren’t the most competitive in the world. They’re buried within a PDF hidden in the Terms of Service document. For instance, you can call Canada for $0.03 per minute or call a cell phone in Mexico for $0.06 per minute.
If you don’t need all the advanced features that other companies provide and just want to take calls on all of your devices, Line2 is right for you.
Google Voice: Free VoIP
We have to mention the one free residential VoIP option. As long as you have an internet connection, and you live in the US, you can sign up for Google Voice and get a free virtual phone number. Ignore long-distance charges call for free with Google Voice and change the way calling works for you.
Of course, free means you won’t get all the fancy calling features like call waiting or call forwarding, and international calling will add to your cell phone bill. However, caller ID works quite well as Google Voice syncs with your Google contacts and can tell you who’s calling.
Besides being able to call anybody for free in the United States, you can also use Google Voice when you’re abroad to call the United States. If you have an internet connection, for example from a Starbucks Wi-Fi hotspot in Japan, you can call your family back home in the US to let them know you’ve arrived safely. So, that’s a sort of international calling.
We highly recommend Ooma VoIP if you’re a bit tech-savvy and can handle a little bit of configuration. Long term, it’s the cheapest option out of all of these and has more features than we know what to do with.
If you’ve got a business to run, give RingCentral a look first. And if you’re tight on cash and just need to make calls, Line2 and Google Voice can take care of your residential VoIP needs.