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However, this isn't your granny's Magic Jack. I don't think that much of this is possible through a prepackaged residentials VoIP solution because they basically provide an opaque service which uses the VoIP protocol on the backend, but the front-end is generally only exposes a subset of what would be possible with that connection. There are, however, many VoIP providers around the internet that will sell you a line and service, but how you access that line is up to you. There are, a sub-set of those providers that will provide SMS services as well and often at no, or low, cost. So, this is not a free solution, but it comes in a lot cheaper than paying for a regular cellphone plan. Because VoIP is completely done over internet traffic any connection will do. Of course in order to use a phone on-the-go a mobile data plan is still necessary, but you can get a 1GB data-only (tablet) plan from many Canadian Carriers for about $20. That, plus the regular service, a couple of extra lines and taxes and I'm in for about $25 per month.

Any Number On Any Device

First I'll explain the extra lines. One of the cool things about VoIP is that it supports multiple very easily. My primary line is a flat-rate (unlimited minutes) number based here in Ottawa that I actually use for all of my calls. All of my outbound calls originate from this line, unless I have a reason to obscure my number. If that is the case, I can call from one of my other numbers, or I can just change the caller display. This is also the only number that supports SMS service.

The first extra number is one from back home in the same exchange that most of my relatives are used to seeing. This has no immediate value to me, it costs a bit extra and, as above, I don't actually 'use' it, but it does allow them to call me without them needing to pay long-distance charges. I call them 'using' that number to limit confusion. To be more accurate about how I 'use' the number, it actually just forwards to my primary number, or re-writes my primary number when I'm dialling that area code; all of the minutes are still actually used by my primary account, and so, although both additional lines are pay-per-usage, I don't actually have any usage.

The other number is the toll free number that you will see on the home page of this site. This allows me to keep calls from known callers and unknown callers seperated and prevents easy scraping of my personal number from the internet. It's been my experience that telemarketers are less likely to call other toll-free numbers; that said, I do direct calls for this number directly to voicemail. There are some exceptions to that, of course. I can write rules to redirect specific callers who use that number to my primary number which will then ring.

Finally, while not a part of my own VoIP service, I also have my work number forwarded to all of my devices as well. It goes straight to voicemail outside of working hours, but it does allow me to work from home or from the road, if necessary. All of my other numbers actually turn to voicemail overnight as well, so I don't have to worry about muting my phone or completely ignoring calls.

All Devices For Any Number

So, all of the numbers can be answered from one VoIP device, but what device is that? Why choose, I say. There is, of course, several SIP clients for Android that I use to register all of the numbers. The nice thing about using everything over data is that my phone doesn't stop working when I lose signal, so long as I still have access to Wi-Fi. This also means that I don't actually need to have a SIM card oin my phone at all. This is useful because I actually have a second, identical Nexus 5. The battery is terrible, so I can always have one charging. They sync automatically, so it doesn't really matter which one I pick up except that I will need the one with the SIM card if I'm going to stray from Wi-Fi.

But I was just mentioning that I don't want to be locked to any one interface, so the same interface on a second device isn't really an improvement. Again, because it only relies on the internet, not a specific cellular network, I can just as easily connect on basically anything with a network connection. SIP applications come in all forms, including for smartphones, all desktop operating systems, tablets and embedded systems. My primary calling device is actually my ThinkPad running Debian with Linphone. I have the same setup on my desktops at work and home.


So. That's talking, which is the simple part. The nerdy bit comes with SMS. The number of ways that I could send or receive a text message is verging on silly. The obvious place to start is still the text messaging app on my phone. I went with a VoIP provider that already had one in the Play Store. The voice recognition for Android would be a cool way to interact with that, but it is provided by the Google Keyboard which I no longer use because Google creeps me out. So the app is probably my least favourite way to send text messages since the keyboard is small and is always trying to correct my spelling.


This section is now actually sort of dated. As described below, my VoIP service provides an easy SMS to Email tool which I had hacked to allow a variety of ways to interact inbound and outbound. All of them are still possible and I actually do still have the emails coming in to be archived, but I have improved the other methods of interaction. But here is the old techniques if you are curious.

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