The Ultimate Guide to VoIP on a MacBy: VoIP Now, on June 04, 2007
VoIP use is estimated to grow to 32.6 million users by 2010, an estimate that proves VoIP's growing popularity. Despite the VoIP growth, there seems to be a real PC bias to the technology and programs that make the most of VoIP - that is, until the past few years. It seems VoIP providers are finally starting to realize the untapped market in ever tech-hungry Mac users. Software and hardware is out there for VoIP on the Mac if you know where to look, and some VoIP has even become unabashedly Mac specific. Unsure where to begin? Here are some tips and advice on getting VoIP for your Mac.
Macs have a reputation for being more secure than Windows online when it comes to outside threats, and that may be true; but that's no reason to get sloppy about securing your VoIP and taking additional steps to make sure you're not vulnerable. As VoIP becomes ever more popular, the amount of predators who see it as an easy way to take advantage of unsuspecting users will increase. VoIP can be vulnerable to a number of threats, some allowing your calls to be eavesdropped on and some, like SPIT attacks, that can clog up your VoIP connection much like spam can clog up your inbox.. While there's no such thing as bulletproof VoIP, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself. Since VoIP calls travel over an Internet connection, sensitive calls, much like sensitive e-mails should be encrypted. Perhaps the simplest way of encrypting your information - one that requires no advanced technical knowledge - is to use a program called Zfone. Zfone is a free program that encrypts and decrypts your VoIP calls on the fly, ensuring that your confidential information will stay confidential. Mac users will be pleased by the program's design, which features the sleek and simple silver design found in other Mac applications. Aside from encryption, you'll also want to protect your VoIP from SPIT attacks. Though these attacks exist only in theory thus far, the thought of getting flooded with hundreds of calls from telemarketers should drive you to prevent them in advance. Most SPIT can be filtered out through the use of a VoIP firewall like the one offered by Borderware or by using a program like VoIPSEAL. Some VoIP clients like Vonage and Skype have built in systems that can filter out a majority of the SPIT before it ever reaches your phone.
While a VoIP phone isn't a necessity to make VoIP calls, if you're Jonesing for another gadget, a VoIP phone can make a nice addition to your collection. A wide variety of VoIP phones exist, but finding one that actually works with a Mac and provides you with high-quality calls can be a challenge. Most phones seem to be tied to a particular provider, so make sure you really love your VoIP client before investing in a phone. There are a lot of pricey phones out there, but here are a few Mac compatible phones that won't bust your budget.
- The Keyspan VP-24A The Keyspan is a cordless phone made for Skype users. It can access your Skype contact list allowing you simple push button dialing to anyone on that list. Sound quality is similar to that of regular cordless phones, but the Keyspan has some advantages over your standard phone. Since your Mac recognizes this device as just another audio device, you can use it as a microphone for iChat as well as device for your Skype.
- The Cyberphone W Yet another Skype phone, the Cyberphone has the distinction of being the first Skype-certified device to be available in all Mac stores. The Cyberphone certainly incorporates the sleek design Mac users love. One feature that should impress is that when the phone is lifted from the cradle Skype is automatically started on your computer. It also provides easy access to your voicemail with single button access.
- The Ipevo Free-1 The Ipevo is perhaps the most lauded of the Skype phones for the Mac. It certaintly looks cool. The white or black phone is accented with green buttons and is ergonomically sculpted to fit the face. It's full of features to impress even the most jaded of geeks. There are 10 ring tones, echo elimination and, most interestingly, the phone allows you listen to music while you make calls. Audio quality is top notch, and resembles that of a mobile connection.
- i2Telecom Voice Stick For those who want to make VoIP calls on the go, the Voice Stick is a great option. Tiny enough that it can be carried on a key chain or in a pocket, the phone is extremely portable and can eliminate those pesky roaming charges from cell phones by allowing you to effortlessly take your VoIP on the road. The phone works with the Voice Stick software, which is available for a range of fees from nothing (for extremely limited calling benefits) to $24.99 a month.
- The Linksys CIT310 The Linksys phone works with Yahoo! Messenger and it allows you to make calls using the free Mac-to-Mac feature, as well as Yahoo Out. While primarily made for VoIP calls, the phone also has a jack so that it can be hooked up to standard phone lines as well, doubling it's usefulness. You can access many of the Yahoo features through the phone - enter your zip code and your weather report will automatically appear.
- The VTech IP8100 For Vonage users, the VTech IP8100 was engineered specifically to be the model of choice. Features include one-touch access to Vonage Voicemail, a fifty-entry phone book, and hands-free speakerphone. Mac users should be wary, however. While the phone itself is compatible with Macs, some of the features and accessories, like the portable V-Phone, have had compatibility issues.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the VoIP software out there for Macs. There are numerous programs and clients that can provide VoIP to your Mac and the number is growing all the time. This is just a selection of a few programs that can help you get started in setting up a great VoIP system on your Mac.
- Skype - Skype is one of the most popular VoIP clients for both Mac and PC users Because it's designed to work with varied platforms it doesn’t matter if you are calling someone on a Windows PC or Linux from your Mac...your call will work. You can call landlines or computers anywhere in the world. Only Computer-to-Computer calls are free, but calls from your Mac to landlines anywhere in the world are available for reasonable fees through SkypeOut. Mac users will like the sleek and minimal interface that fits in nicely with other OS X appliations. Skype doesn't come without problems, however. It's a proprietary system, so it can't be hooked up with any other VoIP service. Security concerns with running Skype on Mac have hopefully been resolved, though users might still find themselves susceptible to spam-like calls.
- Gizmo - Gizmo is a rival to Skype and might acutally be more at home on a Mac than any other VoIP software. It also offers similar calling plans to Skype and allows you to call anyone regardless of their OS. One feature Mac users might find particularly useful is that Gizmo offers a plug-in for the popular Adium software, allowing users to call anyone within Adium using their Gizmo account. Gizmo doesn't offer as many fancy freatures as Skype (like video conferencing) but it's a solid, attractive program and, unlike Skype, it can be combined with any other SIP-based VoIP service allowing you convenience and options in your calling.
- LoudHush - LoudHush is VoIP for the Mac snob, as the software proudly declares that it's Mac only - no PCs allowed. LoudHush works within the Asterisk PBX, so you'll not only need LoudHush, but an Asterisk account as well. Its features include a missed calls indicator and a fixed call recorder on Intel-based Macs. The software is very simple and easy to use, and best of all, guaranteed to work with your Mac.
- iChat - Perhaps the easiest VoIP option for Mac users is iChat since it comes pre-installed with every Mac. Its simplicity is one of its disadvantages however, as calls can only be made from Mac-to-Mac so you can't call to your PC using friends or to landlines. The best VoIP feature iChat supplies is videoconferencing. With iChat you can videoconference with up to 4 people, though this can put a lot of stress on your system; however, the video quality with the new H.264 video codec is fantastic. Despite its limitations, those who want simple VoIP access or those with lots of friends on AIM find iChat to be a great no-frills option.
- SightSpeed - Just like Skype, SightSpeed offers both calling and videoconferencing capabilities. It also offers the typical softphone call plans; free unlimited call between SightSpeed users and cheap calls to landlines and cell phones. SightSpeed will be most attractive to those interested in VideoConferencing, though iChat can provide similar services. Basic conferencing is free, but with a paying plan up to 4 people can conference at once. Mac users might be wary of it however, as it doesn't have the look of a Mac based program. If you are looking for a program that seamlessly integrates with the rest of your applications, SightSpeed may not be the most Mac-friendly.
- Ventrilo - Gamers will be happy to know that there is a Mac friendly VoIP option geared torwards group communications like those required in online gaming. Ventrilo is chock full of features and allows users to customize what they are hearing with surround sound positioning and special sound effects.
- TeamSpeex - Another VoIP geared towars gamers is TeamSpeex. TeamSpeex can be a great addition to any multi-player game. Team Speex looks and feels at home on a Mac, though users should be advised that the Mac version of the program is lacking many of the features available in the PC version. Still, TeamSpeex can give you a way to integrate your VoIP into your gaming, ultimately, and hopefully making you more successful.
There's no longer any reason that Mac users should feel left out of the VoIP hoopla. There are many options for VoIP providers and hardware out there that will work great with a Mac and won't leave PC users with anything to brag about (as if Mac users would ever be jealous!) So if you're interested in trying out VoIP on your Mac do your research and use these tips as a helpful guide for making your experience painless.