TruPhone for iPhone review
When Apple announced the App Store one of the first questions people asked was: would it allow VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) to be created for the iPhone?
Even though O2 and Apple have come a long way in increasing the amount of free calls iPhone owners get, using an iPhone (or, indeed, any mobile phone) to make overseas calls, or call the UK from abroad, remains an expensive game. A quick look at the O2 site shows that calling the UK from Europe costs 35p per minute; from America it's a whopping 90p per minute.
While Apple itself has refrained from creating a voice-enabled iChat application (and so far Skype is strangely absent) we're pleased to see that Apple isn't preventing other VoIP services from being sold.
Truphone is a surprisingly adept VoIP app. Set-up is a fairly straightforward – if somewhat lengthy – process of form filling and validation entry. Once up and running, the app is pretty much identical to the iPhone's built-in Phone program. It also accesses all your contacts and has its own Favorites and Recents menus. As you place a call it shows how much cash you have left (it works as a Pay & Go service) and you can top up directly from the phone. The Top Up service states that the service isn't optimised for the iPhone, but it was optimised as a mobile site and we had no trouble adding cash to our account.
If you regularly make overseas calls you stand to save a great deal of money. Truphone has created what it calls the Tru Zone, which comprises most major areas (UK, most of Europe, USA, Australia, Japan, China, Russia, Hong Kong, etc.) Calls to these countries cost 3p per minute (landlines), 15p per minute (mobiles), and are free to other Truphone customers. There are also special deals such as calls to the US for 1p per minute. There is, however, a minimum charge of 15p each time you make a call.
Where TruPhone falls down is in receiving calls, because it can't. Currently only Nokia users can accept incoming calls. This can be put down, in part, to Apple's refusal to allow background processing on the iPhone, but even when Truphone is running an incoming call is routed directly to your iPhone. It also doesn't support SMS text messaging.
The call quality was good, although not as good as a regular call using 3G. While there was a slight lag and crackly sound to the call, it was easy enough to chat. On the whole, we found the service perfectly functional.
Truphone is a surprisingly good application for the iPhone. It looks and functions just like the Phone app, but at a much-reduced rate. It's a shame you can't accept incoming calls and send SMS messages, though. Even so, if you're going abroad you should seriously consider installing this on your iPhone.