back to article BT's shock new wheeze: Make phone calls from smartphones

BT customers can now make calls over the internet from a smartphone app and have the cost added to their landline bill. The national telco's SmartTalk service is available for iOS and Android, and lets a landline customer register up to four users who can make calls that are added to that landline's bill, or deducted from the …

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FAIL

Outgoing only??? WTF is with that?

Who in their right mind would use a BT app for VOIP at their prices?

I have a voip provider, I can receive and make calls wherever I have a net connection on my phone for a fraction of the price BT charge.. .yes it would be nice to receive calls to my landline number on my mobile, but you still won't make me call using it!

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Bully for you for having a VOIP provider. Clearly this is not for you. This is for the people who actually have BT landlines with free minutes and other free or cheap services who can't make use of it when on the move... until now. It's especially suited for people who are abroad and don't want to be gouged by roaming prices or their hotel prices.

It's limited to certain use cases but for those use cases it's better than nothing.

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Having incoming would be geat.

With phones i really want a service like google voice/talk not sure what its called properly as its in america and not offered in the UK. It ties everything to once number which you can answer on your PC, laptop phone etc. The dream everything in one place.

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@ Bill the Sys Admin

I've often thought that Apple would have already done this as well.

For example, if i receive a facetime call, whether the caller has called, in my case, 1 of 4 possible email addresses or my mobile number, i can answer that call on my mobile, my laptop or my ipad. It works flawlessly. If that was also the case with normal voice calls, what a brilliant service that would be. Google voice, as you say works on that principle but as i live in the UK I've never tried it.

Presumably the network operators would never allow this as Apple (or whoever) would suddenly control video calling (Facetime), texting (iMessage) and normal voice calls. Effectively all you would need from the network operators is a data allowance and they wouldn't like that.

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Vic
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> It ties everything to once number which you can answer on your PC, laptop phone etc

You can do that with a SIP client. I use CSipSimple.

There are a variety of SIP providers around[1] - for most people here, I'd suggest SipGate.

Vic.

[1] I'm one of them, actually - but I'm not really looking for any single-user accounts...

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@Test Man

The big issues it no receiving calls, second is the prices....

So its a low level service compared to what one of many online VOIP providers can do now..

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My German ISP provides telephone via VoIP. Apart from removing the need for a splitter, I can connect multiple VoIP telephones to my landline number using the same credentials. This allows me to use my German landline from a mobile using a standard SIP client and handle both incoming and outgoing calls.

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Re: @Test Man

MrXavia - yep, but the point is not to be a full VOIP solution, obviously. It's aimed at people who are already on BT and would like the ability to use their already-existing calling plan outside of their home. Other VOIP solutions can be too fiddly to set up and use when certain people can simply download this for free and call for free.

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Anonymous Coward

— "Outoing only??? WTF is with that?"

It allows multiple users and presents the home number on outbound calls (because that's the number you have with BT). Let's imagine someone tries to call your home number; there's the phone plugged into the wall in the house, plus maybe mum, dad and a couple of kids. Whose phone rings?

That's what's up with that.

This might not suit your needs, but it's actually pretty useful for anyone who only uses their landline to make calls that are too expensive on their mobile. Or if you want to call someone while you're away on holiday.

I'm already using it.

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"Let's imagine someone tries to call your home number; there's the phone plugged into the wall in the house, plus maybe mum, dad and a couple of kids. Whose phone rings?"

Doh!!! ALL the phones that are connected to that plug, of course!!!!

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Contrary to other comments here, it presents your MOBILE number on outgoing calls.

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So essentially a 21st Century version of the old calling cards.

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chargecard

yep, kind of like a BT chargecard but this one lets you pay twice, once to BT for the call and once to the mobile network for the data.

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Read the first line and gave up...

"BT customers can now make calls over the internet from a smartphone app and have the cost added to their landline bill."

So like skype but you get billed for it? Nooo..... that is all....

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Re: Read the first line and gave up...

No, you won't get billed for it if the call falls within your free plan e.g. 0800, 0845, 0870 numbers are free, landline numbers are free at weekends at least (and you may have evenings or even anytime free landline calls).

It's not a completely new service and isn't intended to take on Skype, etc., it's simply extending your already-existing BT landline plan to outside the house so you can use it wherever instead of only in your home.

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Re: Read the first line and gave up...

Aren't you an enthusiastic shill then?

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Suits me fine. On PAYG with Three which gives me unlimited data and now I can use this app to call 0800 numbers with no charge whatsoever.

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Anonymous Coward

HELL YES!!!!

Virtually the only use for landlines is to call 0800 and 0845 to deal with utility bills and whatnot, and its massively inconvenient, but I had to do it because calling from the mobile was so insanely expensive. Now I can do that from the mobile as well, for free (because I too am on 3). This is utterly awesome.

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Re: HELL YES!!!!

That was my first reaction to it.

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Re: HELL YES!!!!

AFAIR Sipgate 0800 VOIP calls have always been free. But nice to add 0845/0870.

As a sidenote we broke down a week ago and had to call the AA. It as nice to see they had added a 0121 number to their regular 0800. So it was a bundled minute call to get us home. Nice!

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"Suits me fine. On PAYG with Three which gives me unlimited data and now I can use this app to call 0800 numbers with no charge whatsoever."

That'll be the death knell for Three's unlimited data plan then.

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Re: HELL YES!!!!

And also unlike VoIP and Skype the call is logged on your BT bill, so a single bill, and so much more conveniant.

For those with BT broadband and/or a mobile phone with BT WiFi you also get to use this at BT WiFi hotspots.

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Re: HELL YES!!!! @Stuart 222 - AA

The 0121 number has been around for some years, but I've found the AA app very useful particularly as it sends a GPS location reference to the AA.

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Anonymous Coward

I see trouble ahead......

BT (and VM) are touting this as a way to make cheap calls from abroad, charges to a UK phone are are at UK rate (or in your bundle) and they are right to some extent.

Right that is until we start hearing of people who have a roaming data bill that dwarfs the cost of the call because the wifi connection they thought you were on had failed and the phone reverted to 3G, and we all know how expensive roaming data can be...

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Re: I see trouble ahead......

Hardly BT (or Virgin Media)'s fault - that's the responsibility of the person who owns the mobile. In fact, that could equally apply to any VOIP software (Skype, SIP provider, etc.). At the end of the day, it's the mobile owner's responsibility to make sure that they have and can afford the internet connection.

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Re: I see trouble ahead......

I haven't seen what happened to the VM service, I imagine they will be rushing to launch it now that BT has announced theirs.

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Re: I see trouble ahead......

That's buggy software that will cause that, teh application (most SIP applications do) should have an option to ONLY use Wifi data.

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Re: I see trouble ahead......

A two minute call at, say 80kbps, is 1.2MB. Double it for bi-directionality, but then (roughly) halve it for silence if the app supports it (which it should). That's with a fairly high-quality codec. Stick more aggressive coding in there and you can probably drop it down to 16kbps without that much issue. In that scenario you're talking about 300kBytes, which isn't all that much to trouble your data plan.

On Orange (UK), when roaming to France, a megabyte of data costs you 70p, so that two minute call on the more compressed codec will cost you 23p. If you made that call as a voice call it would cost you more than twice as much.

In Kenya, again with Orange, you may want to reconsider using this app. Here it is £8/MB vs £1.75/min for making a call.

In conclusion, if you know your tariffs in advance, you can probably make an overall saving as long as you appreciate that you'll be gouged for roaming either way :)

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Re: I see trouble ahead......

is it only Android that has a system-wide setting to disable mobile network data when roaming?

Thought not.

Why would any sensible person not disable roaming data by default?

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Correct me if I'm wrong

Don't Apple users already have this with Facetime? She calls iphone users from an ipad mini (wifi only) and it's wifi routed to the recipients iphone.

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Re: Correct me if I'm wrong

It's different in that with this you call normal phone numbers under the calling plan you have for your BT home landline.

Facetime is pure VOIP and is more in the vein of Viber, Skype (if you don't count the "calling phone numbers" feature), etc. where you can only send voice and audio to another user, not a phone number.

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Re: Correct me if I'm wrong

You won't get far trying to call a landline using Facetime. Its FaceTime-to-Facetime only.

I think BT's app is a decent, straightforward one and welcome it. The VOIP-calls-charged-to-your-BT-bill complaint is a red herring because, as others have observed, most BT punters have a free calls package.

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Hmm, an app on your phone ...

... to make it be a phone. It's all getting a bit recursive. What happens if you use it to call your phone?

<IT Crowd> if you type "Google" into Google you can break the internet </IT Crowd>

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Re: Hmm, an app on your phone ...

On Android, your phone rings. Yes, it doesn't stop normal phone calls.

Have you ever tried to call your own number on a landline? You just get the engaged tone.

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WTF?

People still have landlines? How extravagent!

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Some of us need a landline to be able to get the internet. In central London here where we don't have a cable service!!!

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And in many other places as well

Cable only covers cities and large towns. Once you get into the sticks, cable is almost non-existent.

I'm surprised by central London, though.

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Re: And in many other places as well

We used to get Westminster Cable, bought out by NTL. However Virgin were unable to put fibre in for some convoluted reason, therefore we have no cable service now. Doesn't stop Virgin posting notes to us on a weekly basis telling us how great their service is, which is very annoying when they won't service our area. 200 yards up the road is borough of Camden and they have a service no probs,

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Re: And in many other places as well

the problem with many big cities is there is not enough space for the cabinets and cables!!! :( :(

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Is it that hard to grasp?

I'm not sure why so many people are struggling to understand the benefits of this.

Many people are signed up to BT call plans. I myself pay about 8 quid a month for unlimited 'free' calls to landlines, 0845 and 0870, any time of the day.

So I can now make those same calls from my smartphone. For example if I'm sitting in a hotel in Dubai and don't fancy spending a fortune on a long distance call back to the UK. Skype would be an alternative but I'd still have to pay per minute. Why not make use of my BT plan?

For those bitching about data costs being higher than the value of the call, you don't have to use 3g/4g, you can use any wifi point as well!

I wonder if you can call your own number. For example lets say I go abroad without the misses and want to phone home from my smartphone to talk to her. Would it work?

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Re: Is it that hard to grasp?

"I wonder if you can call your own number. For example lets say I go abroad without the misses and want to phone home from my smartphone to talk to her. Would it work?"

Yes. The app doesn't tie up your landline and it doesn't represent your landline number strictly speaking. In fact, if you check the bill, it simply adds your mobile number to the calling plan.

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Re: Is it that hard to grasp?

Okay that's cool.

So this might also be the solution to houses who have kids shouting over who gets to use the phone next. One person can use the landline and the 4 kids can then make their calls from their smartphones.

So 5 calls at once all using the same package. Sounds good to me!

Does it have to be on a smartphone as aposed to a smart device? i.e. could you use it on an ipod touch instead of an iphone? And could you use it on an android tablet (without cell) instead of an android phone?

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Re: Is it that hard to grasp?

Apple and Google app stores both block the app outside the UK. I assume that once it's installed it would actually work. But if you forget to install the app before you go away then you're a bit boned until someone uploads the apk file.

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Re: Is it that hard to grasp?

"Does it have to be on a smartphone as aposed to a smart device? i.e. could you use it on an ipod touch instead of an iphone? And could you use it on an android tablet (without cell) instead of an android phone?"

Good point. Not 100% sure, but it sends it over an internet connection. Not sure if an external mic or earpiece would be recognised by the device in the exact same way a built-in mic or earpiece is though.

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Re: Is it that hard to grasp?

I've just set it up on my iPod Touch. You do need access to a mobile phone as during setup it txt's a PIN to a mobile number. The mobile number is then shown is in CLI when making outbound calls. However, once set you don't need the mobile to make calls. It works fine on iPod and will be so useful when I'm away from home.

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Re: Is it that hard to grasp?

If anyone with android would be so kind to grab the .apk and upload it, that would be very much appreciated! Annoying restrictions.

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Re: Is it that hard to grasp?

Yes, you can call your home line. You can install the app on 5 phones and those 5 phones and the landline can use any call play you have at the same time. If the app users call landlines then as long as it's in the 60 minute period, all the calls will be free.

The anytime call plan is £5.15 PM and this app lets you take advantage of it.

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