My girlfriend... er, , and I both have cell phones and share a land line. No one really calls us on our land line that much. Just about everyone (except our parents) call on our cells. So why not ditch the land line? I faced this when I first got my own apartment, figuring I'd just keep the cell phone. The problem? The minutes get eaten big time. I tend to use my cell phone pretty sparsely - it's not so much a conversation device as it is a planning device. "Where are you?" "I'm in the food court." "Be right there." I use land lines mainly for the "how's your life been going" sort of conversations, and those tend to be much longer. My first cell phone bill without a land line was really huge, and made me get a land line very quickly. And don't even get me started about long distance calls on it are especially expensive.
So basically the outgoing line is there for long conversations and long distance conversations. It's $30 through the cable company which is pretty cheap. So obviously there's the VOIP alternative. But a lot of conventional providers are charging, at the bare bones, $20 a month. Not enough savings for me to be able to justify relying on the Internet for my phone.
is a solution that could be much cheaper. It's free for PC-PC calls, and the sound quality is great, but a lot of friends only check their emails about once a week, so you can imagine how hard it would be to convince them to invest in (albeit cheap) headsets and sign up to and be at their computer enough to make it practical.
You can make outgoing calls with , for a price, which is actually insanely cheap. It's about 3 cents (Canadian) a minute anywhere in North America or Europe. So... if we were to use it for 500 minutes a month, (more than we ever use) that would be $15 a month - half of what we're paying now. That's definitely enough for me to think about switching. But what about incoming calls? There is, which provides you with a real number that people can call you at. But... there's no Toronto numbers yet, so people would still burn our cell phone minutes when we got incoming calls. (unless we did the 'call you back!' thing which can get annoying.)
Okay, so assuming we could live with the 'call-you-back' option, there's still the problem of being tethered to the PC. Sure, there are phones, but I really don't feel like setting up a wireless network just for that just yet, and it's still too pricey. There is potentially a good solution - why not just hook up a regular phone to the PC? There are fairly inexpensive phone-to-PC bridges, built for , so it lets you use your phone's number pad to dial S numbers.
But I'm really surprised there isn't a simpler solution to this. A phone is just a speaker and a MIC, so why is isn't there a cheap analog adaptor that converts a phone wire into a MIC and a speaker mini-jack? Sure, I'd lose the ability to dial out using my phone dial pad, but I'd be happy enough dialling sitting at the computer, and then using a cordless phone to roam around from there. I asked the guy at Radio Shack (sorry... "The Source") about this and he stared at me in bewilderment. He suggested a headset that I could plug into my cordless phone. Thanks dude.
Okay, so there are still lots of limitations to moving to Internet-only calling, but the costs are definitely worth it. My phone right now costs me $30 a month, which is $360 a year. At 500 minutes a month, Skype rates would just about halve that. And the more people who sign up to Skype, the less everyone would be paying. But I really think though that the comfort and ease factor need to be there for more people to make the transition. Find me an analog phone-to-stereo adaptor and I'll personally buy one and set it up for my friends and family.