Vonage iPhone app offers discount calling

A 15-minute call to 100 countries costs $1 to $2 and users pay on their iTunes account

Vonage on Wednesday released an iPhone app that offers some benefits over Skype's competitive VoIP (voice-over-IP) calling service.

The new app, Time to Call, is available for free now in 87 iTunes stores around the world. Users will be able to make 15-minute calls to people in 100 countries for between $1 and $2. That rate applies for calls made to both landlines and mobile phones.

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The service works on Wi-Fi worldwide, and in the U.S. and Canada callers can use Wi-Fi or 3G. When on 3G service, callers may pay more, depending on their service plan with their operator.

The cost per minute for calls to the 100 countries is sometimes cheaper than Skype calls. For instance, a 15-minute Vonage call to a mobile or landline phone in Spain costs $0.13 per minute. On Skype, a call to a landline costs $0.2 cents per minute but a call to a mobile costs $0.27 per minute on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Even with more expensive calls to landline phones, Vonage might be attractive to some people for its convenience. Users pay for the calls on their iTunes accounts. They don't have to set up a subscription or use Vonage for their home phone service.

Skype requires people to either pay for a monthly subscription, which includes cheaper per-minute rates, or fill a credit account with Skype before making calls.

Both services are attractive to people who travel internationally. They both offer significantly reduced calling costs compared to roaming with a mobile phone. Most U.S. operators, for instance, charge $1 or more per minute for calls made from mobile phones while users roam in another country.

Vonage is offering one free 15-minute call to people who download the app.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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