Ask most people about internet telephony and they’ll probably think of Skype. After all, it’s the most popular service of this kind in the world and available of a wide range of devices. But Skype isn’t the only internet telephony service out there; far from it! In fact, there are thousands of services all over the world using open standards that provide the ability to make and receive phone calls over the internet.
No matter which service you choose to go with, you’re going to need an app to actually make and receive calls. Telephone, as you may have already guessed, is a VoIP client that provides this functionality. I put the app through it’s paces and see if it really does what its name suggests.
Internet telephony is more commonly known as Voice over IP (VoIP for short) and use a communication protocol called SIP. Unlike Skype which can only be used with its own apps, SIP isn’t proprietary so any developer wanting to create their own app can. Think of it as the difference between iMessage and AIM. You can use iMessage only on Apple’s Messages apps but you can use AIM on any app that supports it.
Small Doesn’t Mean Simple
With that in mind, Telephone is a SIP app for OS X. On the surface, it really doesn’t look like it does much. The app consists of a small, dialog-box size window with a text field and nothing else.
What sets Telephone apart from many other SIP apps for the Mac (and even iOS) is that it does away with all the additional features that many of us don’t need, keeping the interface as uncluttered as possible.
Continuing this minimalism, many controls you would expect to see during a call are kept at bay in the menu, as well as accessible via keyboard shortcuts. If you’re on a Mac with a big display, such as an iMac 27-Inch, then you might find yourself doing a lot of mouse moving to mute or transfer a call if you’d prefer not to use keyboard shortcuts.
The app offers a simply setup screen when adding a new account which requires some basic information regarding your VoIP provider. Most of the time, the information it prompts for is all that’s needed. Some providers require additional information to be entered which can be done once you’ve performed the initial setup. You can even add multiple accounts and use them at the same time.
Telephone provides excellent audio support and can be set to use a different audio device than your Mac’s default option. This means you can use a USB headset without worrying about changing the audio before accepting a call. And because it uses OS X’s native audio you can even use Bluetooth, letting you keep your speakers plugged in but all calls are sent through your Bluetooth headset.
I did find Bluetooth a bit unreliable due to a mixture of relatively poor support in OS X for Bluetooth devices and Telephone crashing if I didn’t switch the headset on before launching the app. Whilst Telephone can pause iTunes automatically when a call is made, it doesn’t appear to work for other audio apps such as Spotify or Instacast.
At it’s core, Telephone offers the ability to make and receive calls, transfer calls to other extensions (if you’re using it as part of a phone system) as well as muting options. Telephone integrates nicely with your Mac’s Address Book and offers autocompletion when entering a name or phone number. Should there be multiple numbers then the app will display all of them for you to select.
The main window offers the option to set your availability which will control whether or not incoming calls come through or if they are simply diverted immediately based upon your service provider settings.
I’ve been using Telephone for a while now and it’s become one of the few apps that is permanently in my Mac’s Dock. It’s hard to believe the developer has released the app for free as it’s an app I would gladly pay for.
Telephone may look like a rather featureless app but it’s a prime example of an app that doesn’t need any bells or whistles to do it’s job. In fact, if you compare it to an app such as Skype which has grown from a similar appearance to the rather bloated and heavy app we have today, Telephone provides a very refreshing alternative.
If you use any VoIP service that is compatible, you must give Telephone a try. It’s free, easy to configure and ever so simple to use.
Want to use your real phone with your Mac? Check out our review of Dialogue, an app that lets you receive and make calls on your Mac through your iPhone or other cellphone via Bluetooth.