How to make free calls the the Philippines
Philippines Travel Blog #2
People always ask “how can I place a free call to Philippines? I need to call my family but it’s so expensive.” These days everyone has a cell phone, even in the Philippines people are addicted to texting to the point where they often prioritize “load” (prepaid cellphone units) over food. The difference is that in the West, everyone has a smart phone, but this isn’t always the case in the Philippines where the average Filipino might not be able to afford that type of technology. With that being said, I will provide two different solutions to making that free call to Philippines (and vice versa); one for those with smartphones at each end of the call, and the other the old fashion way.
Scenario 1: You and your family both have smart phones.
Before I start explaining how to make a real free call to Philippines with a real phone number, it’s important that I mention a few other none-phone number options. If you were not already aware, in the Philippines both cell phone providers Globe and Smart offer both free Facebook, and Facebook Messenger. Even if you run out of “load,” your sim-card will still allow the use of Facebook services. Although the version of Facebook you will be allowed to use will have images disabled, Facebook Messenger however will be fully functional minus the voice and video functionality. What this means is that you will always have a 100% free text & picture communication method with your family! On the contrary, if your family happens to have “load,” you can optionally avail the use of the voice and video chat features of Messenger. If you enjoy chatting this way, but the quality is lacking, then you can always try Viber. Do to various load top-up promotions available to Filipinos, Viber is sometimes free for both Globe and Smart users, but what if you want to make a real call?
What you will need:
- A Google Voice account or, if you already have a phone, that works too.
What they will need:
- A Google Voice account. You will need to create this account for them, this is because google voice is currently not available in the Philippines. Doing this will also create them a Google account, this is good because it will help them in the future with region specific apps from the Google Play store. If possible try to select a phone number for them that is in the same area code where you live. This way if you have a second landline phone, you can call them from that phone number without incurring long distance charges, or without having to dial them though google voice. (Note: they may be able to create a google voice account themselves within the Philippines by using a VPN plugin such as HotSpot Shield for the Google Chrome browser or for Android.)
- The Google Hangouts app, and the Hangouts Dialer app. In their Hangouts account settings, be sure to check “Receive SMS and voicemail in Hangouts.” Also in the Hangouts app settings be sure to enable “Incoming phone calls,” and “Messages.”
With this above set up, you will now be able to call your family’s google voice number from your home country for absolutely not cost to you, and they will able to return the favor when they call out via the Hangouts Dialer. Disclaimer: Of course your family will need to have either cell phone data load, or WiFi for this to work; but with all the new free WiFi services all over the Philippines, this is no longer an issue! Salamat Duterte 🙂
Why is this better then using Facebook or Viber?
- It’s free to use Google Voice to call out via Hangouts, Gmail, or using the Hangouts Dialer app as a WiFi phone. Compare this to paying for a cell phone contract or a traditional landline telephone!
- Thanks to Google Voices call-forwarding feature, your family will be able to call your landline (if you have one), and even get a hold of you when you are out of cellular data range. In-fact, they will be able to call any phone number they want just like a real telephone. This isn’t a cell phone to cell phone only service! This means that you do not even need a cell phone to begin with, and that alone with save you a ton of money!
- Now you can use your families phone to make a free call overseas when you are visiting them in the Philippines 🙂
- If your family looses the cell phone, they can still call you from any Android device, or by simply logging into gmail. This is handy with cell phone theft as common as it is!
- The call quality of Google Voice is much higher then other solutions for mainly two reasons: firstly, sometimes one end of the conversation is using a VOIP service. Secondly, the app is not cluttered with other other data heavy features that could interfere with call quality.
Scenario 2: Your family doesn’t have a smart phone.
Even if one of your family members does indeed have a smart phone, eventually you will find yourself needing to call a member of your family with a traditional touch-tone phone. What are your options? Sure you can buy those expensive online phone card re-directly scams that charge you for minutes before your party even picks up (no thanks), or you can pay a premium though your phone provider to place an international call. We’re not going to play that game, we’re done with that, we want a free call to Philippines so lets get onto it!
What you will need:
- A Google Voice account or if you already have a phone that works too.
What they will need:
- Internet service and router.
- A Magic Jack Go, or Nettalk like device. These newfangled devices will typically set you back $35 a year including the cost of the device. Note: Magic Jack lets you sign up for 5 years in advance for $100 including the cost of the device, so that’s $20 a year, or $1.67/m for unlimited calling. There are coupon codes available online if you take a few minutes to search for them, and you can get your renewal down to under $1/m for 5 years! Still not “free” I know…but close to it!
Scenario 3: Everyone’s broke.
I understand that this will not work for some people. Especially if your Philippine family has not already budgeted for internet service. If a smart phone is not in your budget, and/or they live in the province where there is no free WiFi, and purchasing your family internet service and a Magic Jack isn’t feasible, then Google Voice can still help you call your family, and here’s how:
In the likely event that you are not already paying for a home VOIP service such as Vonage (which has great per minute call rates to the Philippines), Google Voice just so happens to have the best rates for the occasional caller! This is true because next to great per minute rates, there’s no device to buy, or monthly services fee’s required, so this makes the overall cost of Google Voice International for the occasional caller very low.
How does it work?
To add load credits to your Google Voice account, simply click the dotted menu, then above “Settings,” click “Credit.” After you top up your account then you can immediately begin to dial out. To dial out you can either use the Hangouts Dialer app, voice.google.com, hangouts.google.com, or gmail.com to call the Philippines. If you want to use your physical phone to dial out, you simply need to install the Google Voice app. After you setup the app on your phone, whenever you dial a number, the program will prompt you to select if you want to dial out with Google Voice, or with your phones native dialer. Selecting Google Voice will enable the phone call to use your Google Voice International load credits. If you wish to dial the Philippines from your landline phone and still use your Google Voice International credits, you can either log into voice.google.com or use the Google Voice Extension for Chrome to dial from whatever phone you’ve linked to your account. After selecting your phone, Google Voice will then ring that phone, you pick up, and the phone will automatically start dialing the Philippines number you entered.
Now that you’ve made your first free call to the Philippines, or close to it, you may have noticed that your family is calling you more frequently. Depending on your situation, this may or may not be a good thing! The only potential problem I see with free unlimited calling to and from the Philippines (other then more frequent requests for money), is related to the difference in time zones. You see, our family is likely call you early in the wee early hours of the morning, waking your entire family up in the process. Else they will end up calling you in the evening just as you’ve started to doze off into dreamland. Heck, they’ll probably call you morning and night just to check up on you 🙂 Lucky for you though, Google Voice can handle both these problems in two effective ways:
- Google Voice can be set up to screen calls for free! How this works is that when you receive a call, the caller is asked to state their name before the phone starts to ring on your end. Then when you do pick up the phone, you will hear the name of the caller in the caller’s voice, this way you know exactly who is on the other line. Simultaneously, while you are listening to the recorded name of the caller, the caller is still experiencing the phone ringing as normal, as if you haven’t picked up yet. Google Voice will ask you to press a button if you would like to answer, or to press a different button if you would like to send the caller to voice mail. This way the caller never has to know that you did not want to talk to them 🙂
- Do not disturb is awesome feature that automatically blocks calls that are made at times in which you have defined as inappropriate. When a caller places a phone call to your Google Voice number outside of your desired availability time, they will hear the message: “the Google Voice subscriber is currently unavailable, please cal back at a different time.” Problem solved!
Note: these two features only work if you ONLY give out your Google Voice number. Remember, you can set your Google Voice number to ring any number of phones in your arsenal, so there is no need to give anyone your real number. Hope this helps!