Traveling internationally is pricey enough as it is, but international roaming can send the cost soaring even higher — T-Mobile’s calling rates, for example, range from $1.99 (Aruba) up to $10.79 (Diego Garcia) per minute. That’s where iPlum comes in: by leveraging your phone’s Internet connection, the service is able to offering dramatically lower rates than many of its competitors — as cheap as one cent per minute.
It works like this: You install the iPlum app on your smartphone or tablet, then sign up for an international calling pass. For $1 a month, you can place encrypted calls over a Wi-Fi or cellular connection from anywhere in the world at low per-minute rates, and calls to other iPlum users for free. You get a real U.S. phone number that others can use to reach you, plus a bevy of extras including unlimited toll-free calling to the U.S., the ability to send and receive text messages, and a second, “virtual” phone number for privacy.
iPlum’s conceit — cheap voice-over-Internet — isn’t original. Apps like Whatsapp and Viber operate in much the same way, running atop a data connection to carry voice to and from your handset. But those services require that all calling parties download an app, a difficult proposition for landline users. Some VoIP alternatives such as Vonage and Skype offer international landline calling, but usually at inflated rates; a pay-as-you go Skype call to a landline Germany, for example, costs 2.3 cents per minute.
iPlum has its downsides. Its reliance on an Internet connection puts it at a competitive disadvantage to companies like Rebtel and Ringo, which offer cheap international calls over local cellular connections. But compared to major U.S. carriers, iPlum’s pricing ain’t bad: an entry-level international calling add-on costs $10 per month on T-Mobile and $30 on AT&T.
iPlum is compatible with Android and iOS, and is available from the Google Play and App Store.