One of the reasons I love VoIP technology is the fact that it allows bloggers to interact with readers, companies and (if you are lucky) conduct phone interviews–without using up any of your minuets.
Although there are many VoIP services out there, the one that I have come to love the most is GrandCentral (a VoIP service owned by Google), as it allows you to embed a button on your blog, giving your readers (and potential advertisers) an extra option to contact you directly without revealing your mobile number (or even theirs, which is great for anonymous tips).
Despite the fact that Google has not (yet) created an iPhone app for GrandCentral, a third party company called GGT Enterprises has developed a free iPhone app called GrandDialer which basically gives iPhone users “unlimited” calling (regardless of their plan)–as long as they live in the US of A (more on that below).
Since GrandDialer (through GrandCentral) may not appeal to many international readers, I have included a brief overview of another iPhone app called Fring below.
GrandDialer (The Good)
One of the most striking things about GrandDialer is its simplicity. Instead of creating an app full of eye candy, they merely duplicated the layout of Apple’s phone app (minus the favorites and voicemail buttons), which means there is no learning curve for first time users.
Users can easily select a friend, an anonymous contact (with tips) or family (all which have been blurred out in the image below) and GrandDialer will dial their number first, before calling you back and connecting you with your contact.
Since AT&T only charges its customers with outbound calls (or whenever you call your friend first), GrandDialer in essence gives iPhone users unlimited calling (which costs $120 plus a month) without paying for unlimited calling (as GrandCentral is not yet charging for outbound calls).
Users can also select which phone you want GrandDialer to connect to, whether it be your house number, iPhone, business number or (if you are really mean) your favorite politician you would like to harass (for messing up the economy).
GrandDialer (The Bad)
While I love the fact that GrandDialer is saving me some cash (as well as allowing users to contact me anonymously via GrandCentral), it suffers from one major problem–Google is no longer giving out GrandCentral invites to users (as they are still “transitioning” to Google’s servers).
GrandDialer also does not allow you to access your GrandCentral voicemails, forcing iPhone lovers to log onto their laptops (since the iPhone is unable to play mp3 files thanks in part to Steve Jobs forsight).
GrandDialer is also only limited to US numbers (at least for now via GrandCentral), so this may not be helpful towards bloggers with a large international audience.
GrandDialer’s biggest rival is perhaps Fring, which allows users to connect to a variety of VoIP services, including Skype (which does have an embed button for bloggers, although it does not allow readers to call you anonymously with tips).
While it does boast more features than GrandDialer (as Fring allows you to connect with Twitter, Gtalk, Yahoo, MSN and AIM), you can only use its VoIP service service over WiFi–even if you have a 3G iPhone (note: this is a limitation from Apple, and not by Fring).
While Fring can connect to GrandCentral through the Gizmo Project, setting up is “not as smooth,” which may deter those unfamiliar in the realm of geek.
If you were one of the lucky few who were able to snag a GrandCentral account while they were available, I would encourage you to download the app for free–as well as embed the button on your blog (although do not be surprised when you receive a lot of calls–especially story tips from readers).
Hopefully GrandDialer will consider adding Skype, as it would broaden its appeal towards international users (with GrandCentral invites being scarce nowadays).
Either way, I would recommend users downloading both apps, as both of them are free (especially during these slow economic times).
Update: Added “expandable post summary” to post.