Today I discovered something that could rival Skype: a website called Jajah.
The idea is simple and it works like a charm. You go to the website and type in your phone number; then you type the phone number you want to call (and that number does not have to be in the same country).
You click on the call button, and it's magic time: After a second or two your phone would ring; you pick it up, and a very accented voice tells you that Jajah is connecting you.
Wait for the phone to ring and the other side to answer, and talk!
Obviously, Jajah uses VOIP to work, just like Skype. From today's experience, though, I can specify two advantages Jajah has over Skype:
First, you don't need your computer to talk; you use your own regular phone, which in the case of our cordless phone gives you the flexibility of freely moving about. You do need a computer to initiate the call, but you're not really using your own bandwidth; so you can use bit-torrent while you talk, or if your computer is threatening to over-heat (like my Intel P4 likes to do during Australian summer), you can just tell your PC to fuck off because you're using your normal phone.
The second advantage is that quality wise, in the two calls I made to Israel Jajah proved to be much better than Skype. In fact, it also proved to be much better than the regular landline connection I got when my mother called me back.
Skype does have one significant advantage: with Skype to Skype calls you can have a pretty decent video connection, too.
Pricing is very mortgage friendly.
The site allows you a demo 5 minute call at no cost (I don't know how long you can abuse this feature). You can buy credits to make normal calls, and in my case the international calls I would make (to the UK and Israel) cost $0.025 per minute - a very Skype like price. In fact, for short calls both Skype and Jajah are significantly cheaper than local calls.
However, in the same fashion that allows you to make free Skype to Skype calls, Jajah allows you to make free Jajah to Jajah calls (there is a disclaimer here: this only works for "active" Jajah accounts, and the definition of "active" is rather lucid). And that's where the true charm lies: once all my relatives and friends register to Jajah, you can basically talk to them for free. Regardless of whether you're talking local calls or international calls, this means that 80% of your phone bill is gone with the wind; and unlike Skype, you don't need the other side to be online - all they need to have is a landline.
The sky's the limit, when you think about it.
For example, with Jajah you can make private international calls from work. You register your work number with your account (Jajah allows you to do it), and just access the Jajah website for a second from your work PC to make a connection.
And better yet, all your friends that keep coming with lame excuses with regards to the reason why they can't install Skype can no longer have any excuses: Connecting to Jajah doesn't take any installations, just a very basic web access for a short period.
So now all that's left is to hear the imaginative excuses they will come up with in order to explain why they can't connect.