To start an account with Skype, all you have to do is go to the Skype homepage and click "Download Now" to download a free program. This program is the Skype soft phone client, which includes an on-screen keypad you can use to make calls.
After you install the program, the Skype Getting Started wizard shows you how to add contacts, make calls and import contact information from your address book. If you haven't already signed up for an account at the Skype Web page, you can also follow a link from the program to create your username and password.
The Skype application looks and works a lot like an instant messaging(IM) client. As with an IM client, you can change your online status, look at your contact list and decide who you want to talk to. In order to use these functions and to make calls, your computer has to be on and connected to the Internet, and your Skype application has to be running.
Calls to other Skype users are free, as are outbound calls to traditional numbers until the end of 2006. As of January 1, 2007, using Skype to call land lines and cell phones will cost $29.95 per year (Skype-to-Skype calls will still be free). To receive incoming calls from traditional phones, you must purchase Skype Credit and use the add-on SkypeIn service.
This process is significantly different from what you need to do to get started with Vonage. While opening a Skype account is a lot like starting an IM account, opening a Vonage account is more like getting set up with a new ISP. You sign up for the service at the Vonage Web page. But rather than downloading a program, you fill out forms online to establish your account. Unlike Skype,
the service is not provided for free.
Signing up with Vonage is a multi-step process involving:
- Selecting a service plan (prices start at around $14.99 a month)
- Choosing whether to keep your existing phone number or get a new one
- Choosing the equipment that will allow you to use the service
- Entering your name, address and phone number for 911 calling purposes