Now you can. The free version of iCall will let you dial any number right from the desktop and speak, Skype-style, via your computer’s built in Mic and speakers. iCall is available for Windows, as a web app, and for iPhone/iPad.
But there is a catch: iCall is ad supported; you will have to listen to a brief 30 second ad before you can make your call. Each call, moreover, can last up to 4:30 minutes before you have to re-dial (and listen to another ad), which is not an insignificant amount of time. The free version also does not afford you the luxury of having your own number, although people are able to call you by calling a centralized number and entering your iCall extension. iCall also provides voice messaging, so you know who called you while you were offline.
I tested this software just for the heck of it, by calling my own home. I will say there is something really cool about being able to call any ‘normal’ number free from the desktop. Here are some observations:
- You can call almost any number in the US or Canada, including 800 numbers. You can also do so even if you are located outside the US or Canada.
- You cannot make emergency phone calls
- Ads are played before connecting your call and last 30 seconds.
- You have 4:30 minutes of calling time available before having to redial (because the 30 second ads cut into your talking time).
- Voice quality is very decent, despite a slight delay. It will depend on the strength of your connection of course.
- You do not have your own number in the free version; however people can call you by using a local access number and theb keying in your iCall extension. See their list of local access numbers.
- Other services include: a contact list and access to a voice messaging system, which I didn’t test myself.
- This software can remain in the background, in order to receive calls whenever they might come. It has a memory footprint of just under 40 megs, which is not lightweight but not top heavy either.
- You will be asked to create an account with a valid email address.
Differences from the paid version: the paid version is ad-free, promises better voice quality, no time limit on calls, call forwarding to your phone, and personalized voice messaging.
The verdict: a great service overall that works remarkably well. Not only does it give you the power to call anywhere in the US or Canada for free, but a way to call a US number from anywhere in the world. And a way for people to get in touch with you by making an ordinary US phone call, no matter where in the world you are.
If I wanted to pay for this sort of service, I would probably do it with Skype (since everyone I know is already using it), but I say kudos to the developers for finding a way to provide this service free of charge, even if it is ad supported.
Version tested: 126.96.36.199
Compatibility: Windows, browser based web app, iPhone and iPad versions available.
Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx 5.35 megs).