In my last post, I briefly mentioned how I used the Sipgate VOIP service and softphone to work around a problem I was having with Google Chat.
However, the real value of Sipgate is it will enable you to receive Google Voice calls when you are overseas while using a smartphone (e.g. Android, iPhone, Blackberry) at no charge! In the case of an Android phone, it will also enable you to make free calls from overseas to the US (with an additional free app)!
You don't need Sipgate when you are overseas if you just want to make and receive phone calls on a computer. Google Voice alone will do that.
Setting up Sipgate and adding it to Google Voice
Here is a brief video tutorial on how to create and configure a Sipgate account, download your Sipgate soft-phone, and link your new SipGate number to your Google Voice account.
Sipgate has a free plan that includes a phone number in the US along with unlimited incoming calls and 60 minutes of outgoing calls. Skype will also provide you with phone number with unlimited free incoming calls, but it will cost you $60 a year for the number.
After you have done completed the steps outlined in the video, you are almost ready to start receiving calls on your smartphone.
Receive free calls from the US on your iPhone
If you have an iPhone, the last step is to download and configure the free native Sipgate client from the iPhone App market. Now you are ready to receive incoming Google Voice calls on your iPhone.
Receive free calls from the US on your Android phone
If you have an Android phone, you will need to use a different app. Sipgate currently doesn't have a client for Android, or Blackberry for that matter.
I use what seems to be the most popular Android SIP client app, SipDroid, which is freely available from the Android Marketplace. If you do install SipDroid, please read this post so you can avoid a nasty interaction between Google Voice and SipDroid.
SipDroid is easily configured to log into your Sipgate account, so that SipDroid will get all your incoming SipGate calls. Now your Android phone is ready to receive incoming Google Voice calls no matter where you are.
Making free calls to the US on your Android phone!
If you have an Android phone we are not finished! That is if you also want to make free calls to the US while you are overseas. We need just one more app. It is GV Callback , also available for free from the Android Marketplace. However, you can earn some good karma by purchasing the "Donate Version" of the app for $2.99. ;-)
GV Callback does what it's names says. When you call a number, it will give you the option to initiate a Google Voice callback. If you are overseas and you are calling the US, you obviously want to choose this option. When you receive the callback from Google Voice you can then call any US number at no charge. The fact that you are overseas is irrelevant to Google Voice, because it is dealing with a US number provided by Sipgate.
Avoiding international roaming charges
Another important benefit of this setup is that you can avoid exorbitant roaming charges by placing a cheap local prepaid simcard in your phone when you arrive in another country. You avoid the usual disadvantage of changing your simcard, since people who want to reach you from the US don't need to know the phone number associated with your simcard. A call to your Google Voice number will reach you no matter what simcard is in your phone.
Calling countries other than the US
One last note, calls to countries other than the US are not free with Google Voice and this setup doesn't change that fact.
However, I have done some price comparisons and both Sipgate and Google Voice offer some of the best rates for international VOIP calls. For example, in some cases Skype will charge you 4 times the rate of Google Voice or SipGate.