Vonage is your basic VoIP phone service, with the emphasis on the phone. For a monthly charge, they send you a device to hook up to your phone that does two things. First, it digitizes your analog voice, a must for VoIP usage. Second, it initiates an internet link that runs through your DSL or cable broadband hookup. VoIP-specific phones are perfect to use on Vonage service, and you can use them wirelessly.
You get your local and long-distance phone service for the monthly flat rate, and also a number of services like three-way calling and call forwarding, which few people use. In some plans, you do pay for outgoing calls after a point, but the number of minutes you get before reaching that break point is pretty generous.
Skype is a very different sort of VoIP provider. It started as primarily a computer-based, not phone-based VoIP, and most people originally used headphones with their ordinary computer to access a Skype account. You can get Skype phones today that run through your computer, but most of Skype's services are more web-friendly.
In addition to phone service, Skype has robust online and computer-based communications technology like chat and user lookups. But the outstanding feature of Skype is the price. If you're using it to call directly to another Skype user, anywhere in the world, it's free. It's also the easiest VoIP service to take with you; if you have a Skype account, you can access it from your computer or any Skype-enabled computer, anywhere in the world.
Lingo is a new entry to the VoIP world, and is ascendant primarily because while it offers Vonage-style services, it also offers dirt-cheap rates. Vonage focuses primarily on the United States, Canada, and Mexico; Lingo's area of expertise appears to be Asia and Western Europe, where it offers either unlimited calling or a robust calling plan. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have worked out all their bugs, and Lingo does not have a stable calling platform yet.
AT&T CallVantage is another new entry, though it's from an old company. They, too, are based on similar technology to that Vonage uses, with devices that hook up to your phone et al. Unlike Lingo, AT&T offers excellent quality service, as one might expect. At one point, AT&T had overly-complicated technology for hooking up your VoIP service, but they have improved and now aren't much worse than Vonage.
No matter how good your VoIP provider is, your telephone stability and reliability when using this service is limited by your high-speed internet connection. If the power goes out, no phone. If your internet service is interrupted for any reason, no phone. If you are confident in your cellular service and aren't worried about this, that shouldn't be a problem, but it is something you must consider when you choose your VoIP service.
The bottom line is not to choose VOIP service based on price alone. Look at the features and determine how important that is to you and how often you will use it. Our web site features our Editor's Choice Best Pick for the best VOIP service available based on a wide range of criteria.