When it comes to free voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, Microsoft's Skype and Google Voice have received the most hype so far, but which is worthy of being dubbed "king" of this valuable market?
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Many small businesses use one or both of these services as free unified communications options. The Skype-vs.-Google-Voice question might not ask which product is better, but instead which can better complement your individual and business needs.
The following chart compares these two free-VoIP giants to offer you a quick guide to the feature differences between the two and help you make a decision on which one best fits your business.
Skype vs. Google Voice: Feature-by-feature comparison
|VIDEO CHAT||Yes*||Yes||*Available only through integration with Google's "Voice and Video Chat" (requires plug-in installation), video chat not within Google Voice itself.|
|FREE INTERNATIONAL CALLING||No*||Yes**||
*International calls are not free/supported with Google Voice, but you can install Google's Voice and Video Chat for free international calling (does not extend to landline and mobile phones).
**Only Skype-to-Skype international calls are free.
|UNLIMITED DOMESTIC CALLS (INCLUDING MOBILE AND LANDLINE NUMBERS)||Yes||No*||*Skype-to-Skype domestic calls are free, but calls to mobile and landline phones cost extra using a Skype subscription (domestic pay as you go: 2.3 cents/min). Subscriptions range from $2.99/month for U.S. and Canada to $13.99/month for unlimited worldwide. Certain subscriptions offer free (but limited) calls to landline/mobile phones.|
|VOICE, IM AND VIDEO INTEGRATION ON SINGLE PLATFORM||No*||Yes||*Video calls are only available through Google's Voice and Video Chat plug-in.|
*Only domestic SMS is free
**Skype Credit must be bought to SMS; rates vary by country, U.S. (not including Hawaii/Alaska): 11.2 cents/message.
|FREE VOICEMAIL||Yes*||Yes||*Google Voice also allows you to listen to voicemail in real-time and answer the call at any time.|
|FREE CALL FORWARDING (Public Switched Telephone Network [PSTN] INTEGRATION)||Yes||No*||*Certain paid subscriptions offer free call forwarding and purchasing Skype Credit allows you to pay per minute (Rates vary by country, U.S. [not including Hawaii/Alaska]: 2.3 cents/min).|
|FREE VOICEMAIL TRANSCRIPTION||Yes||No*||*Costs extra (25 cents/message).|
|FREE CALL RECORDING||Yes*||No||*Google Voice has free call recording with incoming calls, not outgoing calls.|
|FREE CALL BLOCKING||Yes||Yes|
|FREE INDIVIDUAL PHONE NUMBER||Yes||No*||*You can get your own number for $18 for three months, or $60 for a year (through a Skype Premium subscription, users get a 33% discount for 3 months on their numbers, and a 50% discount for a year).|
|NEEDS PHONE PLAN||Yes*||No**||
*You need a phone plan to use Google Voice, but can use Google Voice and Video Chat for free via WiFi connection.
**A phone plan is unnecessary because you can connect through WiFi.
|FREE GROUP VIDEO CHAT||Yes*||No**||
*Free group video chat is available only through Google's "Google+ Hangouts" application.
**This is free/available only with Skype Premium paid subscription (cost varies by country, U.S.: $4.99/month for 12-month subscription, $7.49/month for 3-month subscription).
|ABILITY TO PLACE 911 EMERGENCY CALLS||No||No|
|"BUSINESS VERSION" OF THE SERVICE AVAILABLE AIMED AT TYPICAL COMPANY NEEDS||No||Yes*||*"Skype for Business" costs more and includes features like cheaper calls, group calling, collaboration functions and contact with non-Skype customers. Cost varies depending on business size and other factors.|
|REQUIRES A CLIENT||No||Yes*||*Download the Skype client.|
|REQUIRES A PLUG-IN||Yes*||No||*Download the Google Voice plug-in.|
Source: TechTarget 2012
Using Skype and Google Voice together
One important factor to take into account is that these two VoIP products have the potential to work together, and a combination of the two may be beneficial to certain businesses and individuals. To use both products together, you first need to buy a Skype phone number. Once you have a personal Skype number, you can then set up Google Voice to forward any calls from your free Google Voice phone number to your Skype number, as well as to any other mobile or landline phone.
Read the corresponding parts in this series:
- Free collaboration tools a la Google spur better enterprise UC apps
- Skype vs. Google Hangouts: A comparative look