July 21, 2012, 7:40 AM — Even in an era when just about every service is available over the open Internet or through an app, consumers still have to pay for voice service. The "voice charges" line item still pops up on every cell phone bill, and it isn't cheap.
Someday in the not-too-distant future--when all voice communications transmit via carriers' data networks instead of a separate voice network--the carriers will bill you just once.
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Until then, however, savvy phone consumers can keep their voice-minutes needs to a minimum by taking advantage of the many so-called over-the-top services, which provide voice, video, messaging, and more by way of your device's Internet data connection, typically for free or for notably lower fees than the standard voice-minute plans charge. The savings can be even higher when you use an OTT service through your device's Wi-Fi connection, since Wi-Fi services are often free, or at least much more cost-effective than mobile networks are for high-bandwidth applications such as video chat or rich content messaging.
If you're using an OTT service over your device's regular wireless data connection, you need to pay attention, because it could chew up more data than you intended, incurring overage charges and eliminating any cost savings.
Skype and FaceTime
Two of the more well-known over-the-top services are Skype and Apple's FaceTime. Skype, which hundreds of millions of people use mainly on desktop or laptop PCs, is an app that provides free calling, video chat, and messaging between Skype users, and can make calls to regular phones for a cost. It is also available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, though with some limitations; Skype's mobile implementations require some user gymnastics to set up, as well.