I get asked by many people what are the services I should be using to better manage my personal and business life, related solely to telephone service. Friends and colleagues know that as the "early adopter" and alpha tester, not to mention agency to many early stage companies including Truphone, TalkPlus and GrandCentral as well as Nokia and Covad that I have real world experience and understanding of what the implications are to using these "next generation" services.
So, as I reviewed some emails that have been accumulating in my inbox from many companies looking to say why what they are offering is the "next big thing" it dawned on me that there are some latent reasons why I have chosen the mix of services that I have in use and why I suggest what I do to others.
1. I want to Eliminate PSTN
First there are the various phone services that have replaced PSTN calling for me and since I have the Covad T1 in the home office now, that allows for perfect IP telephony.
I've been successfully experimenting with GizmoProject, Skype, SightSpeed, BroadVoice and Earthlink using a combination of both WiFi phone from Linksys, UT Starcom and the new WiFi phone from Earthlink, plus the Nokia N and Eseries devices that offer dual mode capability and for the most part find they all work as promised, providing comparable service to my AT&T CallVantage and Earthlink TrueVoice services.
2. I want to eliminate phone tag.
Instant Messaging has been the single biggest elimination of phone tag when I'm in the office. When clients and colleagues need to talk with me, or vice versa we ask "are you free." Once we know we can talk its either SightSpeed, GizmoProject or Skype if they have a headset, or a call to their desk or mobile phone depending where they are. When I'm nomadic in a hotel, I usually use Truphone or Gizmo Project from the Nokia phone, unless I've got the headset or mic connected to the laptop.
Since I run all the IM apps, I don't have one favorite. My rule of thumb is use what the people I need to stay in touch are using. Sure it means lots of open applications, but you can't get everyone on one platform.
iotum's TalkNow is great when I'm on the go. That and the RIM Messenger make it a snap to stay in touch and get to people instantly.
3. I want to make it easy to be found and return calls easily and cost efficiently.
This one is easy. GrandCentral. It takes messages, find me on multiple phone numbers and deliver my messages by email. CommuniKate does the same and adds IVR to the mix, but GC is free for now.
5. I want only one number--GrandCentral and TalkPlus. Between the two I can manage my number called and my outbound caller ID, making them appear to be the same when I'm in the USA. Since I'm still experimenting (no one breaks things better) this is more at the beta level, but it works great according to others.
4. If I had to pare down what would I suggest?
VOIP-AT&T CallVantage--still the best voice quality and overall feature set.
Broadvoice and Earthlink run neck and neck for number two
A One Number Solution-The Tag Team of GrandCentral and TalkPlus
GrandCentral for the inbound and call return feature. TalKPlus for the dialing out and CallerID management, as well as identity segmentation.
VoIP on the PC/Mac->Gizmo Project first, Skype second. Gizmo is more like a real phone so it could replace even CallVantage at some point. Skype makes it because of the sheer size of the community
VoIP On a Dual Mode Handset--Truphone edges out GizmoProject by a nose.
Instant Messenger--Skype--sheer size of community, GizmoProject-the interoperability is getting better each week, AIM-I still have many old friends there. You can't abandon those who are still there and have no reason to move to others.
Video conferencing--SightSpeed. Far and away the best video quality (note I sit on their advisory board)
Mobile Phone-> Dual Mode Nokia E61i or N95
Non-Dual Mode-RIM Blackberry 8800/8700 or the new 8300
5. Why these and not the others? Simply because all of these services have not sought to change the way we communicate, they have just set out and are making it easier and better. Each has been evolutionary and in turn are part of powering the VoIP revolution.