When I first heard of , the new budget international calling service, I think I shared most people’s initial reaction — um, don’t we have Skype for that? But then I reflected on the evils of monopolies — and I’m not talking about the board games. Competition is healthy in every market, and so I was pleased when Rebtel asked me to poke around their service and write a review.
Qualifications as reviewer include severe smartphone addiction
Rebtel has a fun and user-friendly design. Graphics are colorful and modern and icons help keep navigation intuitive. Flag icons help you visually sort your s by country,
Like Skype, with Rebtel you can make free calls to s who also have the app installed. You can earn credit when you invite friends to sign up, which is a pretty smart incentive to help spread word about the service.
When it comes to calling international landlines and mobiles, there are a few options. One, like Skype, is to call from a wifi connection. I tested out calling a friend in Indonesia both from Skype and from Rebtel — there was no discernible difference in quality. That’s great, but wifi isn’t always available, especially on the go. So Rebtel also has two other options.
A second option is to call from a 3G connection. I tried this feature twice, with a call to Denmark and a call to the United Kingdom. Unfortunately both were fails — the people on the other end couldn’t make out a word I said. However if you have a 3G data plan, chances are you also have a plan that includes free local minutes.
And this third option is Rebtel’s standout. Using a “Local Call” connection, you can call international numbers at local rates without a need for an internet connection. It took me a while to grasp how this could possibly exist. So here goes — you use your regular operator for the local call, but the international part is connected by Rebtel over their internet. Basically, I can stand in the middle of Idaho and use my iPhone to call a friend in Indonesia, and my carrier will charge me the same it would to call someone five feet away and Rebtel will charge me a super low per minute rate based on the country I’m calling. Magic! For those that have a plan with free local calls, that means that all you’ll pay in the end is Rebtel’s super low fees — see the next section for details. And if you start your call on a wifi connection but want to head out the door, you can switch seamlessly to the local calls connection using the Keep Talking feature.
There aren’t many frivolous features going on, but I did find you can also set call reminders — a nice touch for those heading out on a big trip that happens to fall over Grandma’s birthday.
So what’s missing? There are two features that are absent entirely from Rebtel’s repertoire — no video calling and no instant messaging.
Price and Rates
Like the Skype app, the Rebtel app is free.
But when you start to look at rates — wow! Let’s compare the country I just came from, Indonesia, and the country I’m heading to next, Peru. Skype’s rate for calling an Indonesian mobile phone is 16 cents per minute. It may seem like a small figure but I racked up some impressive Skype bills during and after my time in Indonesia doing just that, so imagine my surprise when I looked it up and realized Rebtel’s rate is half that at 8 cents per minute. When it comes to texting, the difference is even starker — Skype charges 14 cents per text versus Rebtel’s 2 cents!
For Peru, Skype charges 31 cents per minute for calls to mobile phones. That could add up quick. Credit will last a tag longer, however, with Rebtel, who charges 26 cents per minute. Once again, the biggest difference comes with SMS charges — Skype’s 22 cents per text versus Rebtel’s 5 cents.
Another bonus for Rebtel — it’s easy to find their rates listed in app. In fact, when you first download the app, it will show you rates for the most common country codes in your address book. For Skype, I had to log onto their website and dig around to find the info.
Rebtel really impressed me. When I accepted this assignment I was afraid it would be a challenge to get excited about something as simple as a mobile calling app, especially when I’ve been using a different one for so long without any complaints. Now I realize I was just being complacent. Rebtel ups Skype’s game in so many ways — fun design, innovative features, and most importantly, extremely competitive rates.
However, there is progress to be made. I’m not sure why there is no video calling or instant messaging option between Rebtel s — without those features, I’ll never be able to fully delete my Skype app. The 3G calling connection could be cool but is at this point basically unusable. Design wise I found one flaw — the app auto-imported my Facebook s, and I couldn’t find a way to hide them.
The greatest obstacle that Rebtel converts will have is getting their friends to also download the app to take advantage of free Rebtel to Rebtel calling. “Let’s do a Skype date soon!” is part of the traveler lexicon and Skype conference calls are part of a typical work day for me for a reason. With that in mind, I’ll probably continue using Skype for those times when I sit down with my laptop and chat for free, usually with video, with friends or family or business s also sitting in front of their laptop somewhere far away. I don’t want to be that girl demanding everyone she knows download this app or that app (I’m looking at you, every single person who has ever hassled me to get SnapChat!), and sometimes it’s great to see that face on the other side of the screen.
However, when it comes to putting down dollars and using credit to call landlines and cell phones overseas? I am now officially a girl.
How do you keep in touch with friend and family abroad?
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Download Rebtel on your and on your . I was provided with free minutes in order to test this app and compensated for my time in doing so.
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